Skip to main content

Full text of "If the Germans conquered England, and other essays"

See other formats





Printed by George Robert*, Dublin 











Some people will remember that, at the outbreak 
of the insurrection in Dublin in Easter Week, 1916, 
the insurgents issued a little paper called Irish War 
News. The first page opened with an article entitled : 
"If the Germans Conquered England," which was 
based upon, and was more or less a quotation and 
endorsement of, the first essay in the present book. 
Thus the essay, if it has no other interest, is, at least* 
of interest in the use to which it was put on an 
historic occasion. 

By a curious chance, on its appearance in The 
New Statesman, certain English Tories, as well as 
Irish Nationalists, discovered in it a reasonable 
statement of the principles of patriotism. One 
Tory professor read it out approvingly to a class of 
young officers, in order to bring home to them the 
things England is fighting for in the present war. 
This is not quite so astonishing as at first appears. 
The Irish national cause is the cause of every nation 
England included which is fighting against 
tyranny. Ireland does not demand any kind of 
liberty which she does not wish to see England, 
France, Belgium, Poland, and all the other nations 
enjoying in equal measure. She desires to be 
neither a slave-owner nor a slave among the nations. 
Ireland, in her struggle against English Imperialism, 
is the close counterpart of England and (closer still) 



Belgium in their struggle against German Imperial- 
ism. Germany, if she conquered England, could do 
no wrong that has not been done or is not even now 
being done by England in Ireland. The chief 
horror of conquest does not consist in atrocities: it 
consists in being conquered. 

The Allies, in fighting against Germany, seem to 
me to be fighting against the principle and practice 
of conquest. There are, no doubt, forces of evil 
fighting on the side of the Allies as well as on the 
side of Germany. The Morning Post is red in 
tooth and claw in 1917 as it was in 1913, and the 
Spectator is still in its Irish attitude as expert as 
ever in making the worse appear the better cause 
in a way that appeals to clergymen. But even the 
Morning Post and the Spectator, whether they like it 
or not, are fighting for the same kind of liberty for 
which Irishmen are fighting. They cannot be hos- 
tile to the invaders of Serbia and the invaders of 
Belgium without acquiescing in principles of liberty 
which are applicable to every community of civilized 
men. When the Central Powers began the war 
with an attack on two small nations, they declared 
war on Nationalism all the world over. When the 
Allies took up the cause of those two small nations 
whether from interested or disinterested motives 
makes no difference they began what I believe 
will prove to be a war against Imperialism all the 
world over. The United States of the World in 
which all the empires will disappear, and all the 
nations, great and small, will live on terms of liberty, 
equality, and fraternity, is now, at least, within the 
scope of the prophet, if not of the practical politician. 


The peace of the world, indeed, is possible only as a 
result of some such reconciliation of the nationalist 
and internationalist ideals of the human race. 

Practically all the essays in this book have 
appeared in the New Statesman, which must not, 
however, be regarded as necessarily acquiescing in 
the opinions I have expressed. The sketch of 
T. M. Kettle appeared in the Daily News, and that 
of Sheehy-Skeffington in the Ploughshare. The 
essay, "On Nationalism and Nationality'' was 
written as a preface to a report of the Nationalities 
and Subject Races Conference as long ago as 1910. 

June 1917 



















GRUB 98 






T. M. KETTLE 137 






When a small tradesman applies for exemption 
from military service on the ground that his business 
would be ruined by his absence, a question that is 
often put to him is: "What do you think will happen 
to your business if the Germans win the war ? " As 
a rule the tradesman does not know what to think. 
He has no means of measuring world-catastrophes. 
He has not Dr. Johnson's short way with questions 
to whichvthere is no answer. In the first place, the 
small tradesman does not believe in the possibility 
of a German victory. In the second place, he has 
not the slightest idea 'what would happen to his 
business as the result of one. Perhaps, however, he 
knows as much about the matter as the members of 
the tribunals. All of us know that a German victory 
which involved the conquest of England would make 
life intolerable for Englishmen until the conquest 
was undone. But as to its effect on small businesses, 
that is another matter. It is quite possible that the 
little grocery, the little tobacco-shop, and the con- 
fectioner's would be able to hold up their heads 
under German rule as under English. The valid 
argument against a German conquest is not that it 
would make an end of the small business man ; it 
is that it would make an end of a free England. 
If it could be proved that a German conquest 
would add twenty-five per cent, to the incomes of 
all Englishmen, even that would not make it toler- 
able. Most men in all nations are ready to sacrifice 
their lives in order that their country may be free. 


They are also though this is apparently much more 
difficult ready to sacrifice their fortunes. 

Consider for a moment the possibility that England 
might actually grow richer under German rule. It 
is very unlikely, because England is already a highly- 
developed country, but consider the one chance in a 
hundred million. We know that, so far as material 
wealth is concerned, Prussian Poland has gone 
forward, not backward, under Prussia. Mr. W. H. 
Dawson, author of The Evolution of Modern Germany, 
is a witness whose evidence on this point cannot be 
lightly dismissed. Referring to the work of the 
Settlement Board in Prussian Poland, he writes : 
" If the purpose had simply been the economic re- 
awakening of the Polish East there would be much 
to praise and to admire in the results that have been 
achieved, for the settled districts have been entirely 
transformed and raised to a level of prosperity never 
known before." There are men with a passion for 
efficiency to whom such a record of material 
progress appeals as a justification of any kind of 
tyranny. We had an example of this spirit some 
time ago in the boasts of some German newspapers 
that under German rule the industries of Belgium 
were already reviving, and that Belgian prosperity 
would soon be on a sounder basis than ever. One 
may be sure that in the conquered territories, even 
in these days of martial law and high prices, 
thousands of little businesses in Belgium are as- 
tonishingly alive. Lawyers still practise in the 
law-courts, doctors attend the sick, priests go on 
preaching, shops are open, factories are working, 
fields are cultivated. This, of course, is not uni- 
versally true ; and, while the country remains a 
battlefield, it can only be true of certain parts of it. 
But it is clear enough that, whatever other evils 
would follow the permanent conquest of Belgium, the 
refusal to allow the average Belgian to make a living 


would not necessarily be one of them. It is not for 
the right to make a living, it is for the right to live 
their own national life, that the Belgians are fighting. 
Like Wordsworth's Englishmen, they " must be free 
or die." That is not mere uneconomic rhetoric. 
Freedom is a form of wealth which brave nations 
prize above gold and silver. Professor Kettle 
horrified some of the followers of Sir Edward 
Carson during the Home Rule controversy when 
he declared that he put freedom before finance. In 
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, I admit, freedom 
and sound finance, so far from being antitheses, are 
complementary to each other. But, even though 
they were not, Professor Kettle's attitude would 
be the right one. The man who would prefer 
finance to freedom ought also, in order to be con- 
sistent, to prefer finance to honour and justice, and 
all those other noble abstractions, belief in which 
differentiates good Europeans from wild animals. 

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Germany 
triumphed so overwhelmingly an extremely un- 
likely supposition, I agree that she was able to 
incorporate England in the German Empire, and 
suppose that she was resolved to purchase the 
acquiescence of Englishmen in German rule by 
developing English industries and English arts 
as they had never been developed before, would the 
spirit of England yield to the bribe ? One can 
imagine how Germany, with the hope of this in her 
mind, would set out with all her efficiency to 
reorganize the railways and the canals, and so give 
an unwonted elasticity to the industrial life of the 
country. One can imagine how she would set 
about the work of town-phmning and street-sweep- 
ing. One can imagine how she would build 
technical schools, art schools, and musical academies 
and opera houses. One can imagine how she 
would build the long-lost Shakespeare Memorial 


Theatre. But even though the English farmer 
found himself with a freer access to markets and 
the English manufacturer found himself with a 
kingdom of chemists and inventors at his disposal, 
the country would still have something to complain 
about. In the first place, it would be constantly 
irritated by the lofty moral utterances of German 
statesmen who would assert quite sincerely, no 
doubt that England was free, freer indeed than 
she had ever been before. Prussian freedom, they 
would explain, was the only real freedom, and 
therefore, England was free. They would point to 
the flourishing railways and farms and colleges. 
They would possibly point to the contingent of 
M.P.'s which was permitted, in spite of its deplor- 
able disorderliness, to sit in a permanent minority 
in the Reichstag. And not only would the English- 
man have to listen to a constant flow of speeches 
of this sort ; he would find a respectable official 
Press secretly bought by the Government to say 
the same kind of things over and over every day 
of the week. He would find, too, that his children 
were coming home from school with new ideas of 
history. They would be better drilled, more obe- 
dient than he himself used to be in his schooldays, 
but he would get angry when he heard what was 
taught to them as history. They would ask him 
if it was really true that until the Germans came 
England had been an unruly country constantly 
engaged in civil war, as in the days of the Wars of 
the Roses, Cromwell, William III., the Young 
Pretender, and Sir Edward Carson a country 
one of whose historians actually glorified a king 
who had beheaded his wives, and one of whose 
kings was afterwards beheaded ; a country which 
sold its own subjects into slavery; a country which 
was given its Empire by Frederick the Great, and 
which then deserted him ; a country which gave 


birth to Shakespeare, but could not appreciate him ; 
a country which had won its way in the world by 
good luck and treachery, not by honesty and in- 
telligence. One can guess how the blackening 
process would go on. It would be done for the 
most part by reasonable-looking insinuation. The 
object of every schoolbook would be to make the 
English child grow up with the feeling that the 
history of his country was a thing to forget, and 
that the one bright spot in it was that it had been 
conquered by cultured Germany. 

And in every University the same kind of thing 
would be going on. Behind round spectacles 
generation after generation of Prussian professors 
would lecture on the history of the German Empire 
(including, as one of its less important aspects, the 
history of England). They would teach young 
Englishmen that Luther, and Frederick, and Stein, 
and Goethe, and List, and Bismarck were the 
founders of civilisation. They would possibly add 
the suggestion of Houston Chamberlain that Christ 
and St. Paul and Dante were part of the German 
tradition. They would begin to spell Shakespeare 
with an " Sch." They would probably explain 
that Shakespeare in German was superior to 
Shakespeare in English. Like Houston Chamber- 
lain, they would believe in " the holy German 
language" as they believe in God. They would 
say it was a better language than English because 
it was inflected. They would set on foot a move- 
ment to substitute it for English in the schools 
and colleges, in order to prevent English children 
from growing up insular and cut off from the 
world-civilisation. Gradually it would become an 
offence to use English as the language of in- 
struction. In another generation it would become 
an offence to use it at all. If there was a revolt 
and, by the dog, as Socrates used to say, there 



would be ! German statesmen would deliver grave 
speeches about " disloyalty," " ingratitude," " reck- 
less agitators who would ruin their country's 
prosperity." Prussian officials would walk up and 
down every town and every village in the country, 
the embodiment of this grave concern for the 
welfare of England. Prussian soldiers would be 
encamped in every barracks the English conscripts 
having been sent out of the country either to be 
trained in Germany or to fight the Chinese in 
order to come to the aid of German rectitude, 
should English sedition come to blows with it. 

Thus, if England could only be got to submit, would 
she be gradually warped. She would be exhorted 
to abandon her own genius in order to imitate the 
genius of her conquerors, to forget her own history 
for a larger history, to give up her own language 
for a " universal " language in other words, to 
destroy her household gods one by one, and to put 
in their place alien gods. Such an England would 
be an England without a soul, without even a 
mind. She would be a nation of slaves, even though 
every slave in the country had a chicken in his 
pot and a golden dish to serve it on. No amount 
of prosperity could make up for the degradation 
of living perpetually under the heel of the Prussian 
policeman and under the eye of the Prussian 
professor. Even the man who kept a small 
sweet-shop would feel queer stirrings of rage 
within him, however prosperous he was, how- 
ever clean the streets were swept, as he saw his 
policeman-conqueror tramping majestically past 
his door. He would feel as if he were in the 
grip of some monstrous machine. He would 
tell himself that law and order was a good thing 
but not at this price. To live among all those 
pompous foreign officials would be worse than 
being in prison. There would be a fire in his head 



till he met another man with a fire in his head, and 
together they would form a secret society and look 
forward to the great day of rebellion. 

It is against this spiritual conquest of England 
rather than against the threat of bankrupt busi- 
nesses that Englishmen will fight with the fiercest 
inspiration. The real case against Germany is 
not so much that a German conquest would 
make England bankrupt, as that it would make 
England no longer England. Englishmen would 
shrink from German rule at its best no less than 
from German rule at its most atrocious. They 
would spurn Germany as a conqueror bringing 
gifts equally with Germany as a conqueror bringing 
poverty and destruction. Wordsworth, in a similar 
mood, has expressed the feelings of a " high-minded 
Spaniard " when in 1810 Napoleon held out to 
Spain the hope of peace and prosperity under his 

" We can endure that he should waste our lands, 
Despoil our temples, and by sword and flame 
Return us to the dust from which we came ; 
Such food a tyrant's appetite demands : 
And we can brook the thought that by his hands 
Spain may be overpowered, and he possess 
For his delight a solemn wilderness 
Where all the brave lie dead. But when of bands 
Which he will break for us he dares to speak, 
Of benefits and of a future day, 
When our enlightened minds shall bless bis sway ; 
Then, the strained heart of fortitude proves weak ; 
Our groans, our blushes, our pale cheeks declare, 
That he has power to inflict what we lack strength 
to bear." 

That is not one of Wordsworth's greatest sonnets, 
but it expresses well enough the passion which 



Belgium must feel at the present moment, when 
the Germans are trying to get them to look forward 
to an era of benefactions under German rule. It 
expresses, too, the passion which Englishmen would 
feel in the same circumstances. No man with 
the slightest glimmer of patriotism would consent 
to see his country made a nation of millionaires at 
the price of being a nation of slaves. 


It was common enough during the first year of the 
war to meet people who took an aesthetic pleasure 
in the darkness of the streets at night. It gave them 
un nouveau frisson. They said that never had London 
been so beautiful. It was hardly a gracious thing 
to say about London. And it was not entirely true. 
The hill of Piccadilly has always been beautiful, with 
its lamps suspended above it like strange fruits. 
The Thames between Westminster Bridge and 
Blackfriars has always been beautiful at night, pour- 
ing its brown waters along in a dusk of light and 
shadow. And have we not always had Hyde Park 
like a little dark forest full of lamps, with the gold of 
the lamps shaken into long Chinese alphabets in the 
windy waters of the Serpentine ? There was Chel- 
sea, too. Surely, even before the war, Chelsea by 
night lay in darkness like a town forgotten and 
derelict in the snug gloom of an earlier century. 
And, if Chelsea was pitchy, St. George's-in-the-East 
and London of the docks were pitchier. There we 
seemed already to be living underground. The very 
lamps, yellow as a hag's skin with snuff in every 
wrinkle, seemed scarcely to give enough light to 
enable one to see the world of rags and blackness 
which one was visiting like a stranger from another 
planet. One finds it so difficult to conjure up the 
appearance of London in the time before the war 
that one may be exaggerating. But, so far as 
one can remember, night in London was even 
then something of an enchantress and London 
the land of an enchantress. Her palace-lights, her 
dungeon darkness, her snoring suburbs tucked away 


into bed after a surfeit of the piano and the gramo- 
phone here, even in days of peace, was an infinite 
variety of spectacle. Not that I will pretend that 
the suburbs were ever beautiful. They are more 
depressing than a heap of old tins, than a field of 
bricks, than slob-lands, than vineyards in early 
summer. They are more commonplace than the 
misuse of the word " phenomenal " or the jargon of 
house-agents. They do not possess enough character 
even to be called ugly. They are the expression in 
brick of the sin of the Laodiceans. Neither the light 
of peace nor the Tartarus of war can awaken them 
out of their bad prose. One thinks of them as the 
commodious slave-quarters of modern civilization. 
The human race has yet to learn, or to re-learn, how 
to build suburbs. It is a proof of our immorality 
that we cannot do so. Well, the darkness has at 
least hidden the face of the suburbs. It has changed 
long rows of houses into little cottages, and monot- 
onous avenues into country lanes down which 
cautious figures make their way with torches. 
Sometimes in these circumstances, the dullest street 
becomes like a parade of will-o'-the-wisps. The 
post-girl alone, with her larger lamp, is impressive 
as a motorcar or a policeman. She steps with the 
self-assurance of an institution past the images of 
lost souls looking for Paradise by candlelight. . . . 
Certainly, the first searchlight that waved above 
London like a sword was wonderful. That made 
the darkness and Charing Cross beautiful. The 
lovers of darkness were right when they praised 
searchlights. Probably the first of them was but a 
tiny affair compared to those that now lie thick as 
post-offices between the hills of north and south 
London ; but it impressed the imagination as an 
adventurer among the stars. One would not have 
been unduly surprised if one had caught sight of 
the prince of the powers of the air making his way 



on black wings from star to star at the end of its 
long beam. Later on, London sent forth a hundred 
such lights. She spent her evenings like a mathe- 
matician drawing weird geometrical figures on the 
darkness. She became the greatest of the Futurists, 
all cubes and angles. Sometimes she seemed like 
a crab lying on its back and waving a multitude of 
inevitable pincers. Sometimes she seemed to be 
fishing in the sky with an immense drag-net of 
light. Sometimes, on misty-moisty nights, the 
searchlights lit up the sluggish clouds with 
smudges of gold. It was like a decoration of water- 
lilies on long stems of light. On nights on which 
a Zeppelin raid was in progress one has seen the 
the distant sky filled, as it were, with lilies, east 
and west, north and south. And, for many people, 
the Zeppelins themselves seemed to have beautified 
the night. For my part, I confess I cannot regard 
the Zeppelin without prejudice as a spectacle. That 
it is beautiful as a silver fish, as the lights play on 
it, I will not deny. Nor can one remain unmoved 
by the sight as shells burst about it with little 
sputters, like fireworks on a wet night. But, even 
as a pyrotechnic display, the Zeppelin raid has, in 
my opinion, been overestimated. They could do 
better at the Crystal Palace. As soon as the first 
novelty of the Zeppelins had worn off, it was their 
beastliness rather than their beauty that impressed 
itself upon those with the most persistent passion 
for sight-seeing. Even the sight of a Zeppelin in 
flames, awe-inspiring though it was, soon ceased to 
be a novelty calling for superlatives. All the same, 
London of the searchlights and the Zeppelins will 
not be forgotten in sixty years. Men and women 
now living will relate to their grandchildren how they 
saw a ship in the sky in a tangle of gold lights, and 
how the ship was then swallowed up in darkness, 
and how, after a space of darkness and echoes, the 



sky suddenly purpled into a false dawn and opened 
into a rose of light. Then, hung in the air for a 
moment, was a little ball of flame, and then the 
darkness again, and only a broken rope of gold 
hurriedly dropped down the sky to announce the 
ultimate horror of disaster. Those who had a 
nearer view of the affair will have their own variant 
of the story. They, too, will tell how the sky 
was suddenly flooded with monstrous tides of light 
at midnight, and how the wonders of morning and 
sunset were mingled, and how the sunset began to 
move towards them with its red eye, with its red 
mouth, a vast furnace-ship, an enemy of the world, 
increasing, lengthening, a doom impending, till once 
more darkness and foolish cheers, and laughter and 
anecdotes in the streets. Assuredly, the darkness 
of London has had its interesting moments. . . . 
One has to admit the attractions even of the 
common darkness of the streets. Perhaps it has 
become, from an aesthetic point of view, excessive in 
recent months, and, except on moonlight nights, we 
have too much the air of shadowy creatures of the 
Brocken as we make our way about in the dimness. 
The tram that used to sail along like a ship with all 
its lights burning was certainly a prettier thing to 
see than the dismal 'bus of these days, packed like 
a doss-house, charging into obscurity. A long line 
of taxicabs can still give a street in a busy hour the 
appearance of a stream of stars, and on a wet even- 
ing even a procession of vans with their red lights 
reflected in the pavement can impart to the com- 
monest road the magic of a Venetian canal. But 
the darkness is by no means so beautiful now as it 
was when a few windows were still left lighted. At 
the time of the first lighting regulations, we were 
given a subdued light instead of a glare. Build- 
ings with every feature a misunderstanding revealed 
themselves as impressive masses ; illuminated adver- 



tisements disappeared; and we could still see to 
read the evening papec in a 'bus, so that we were 
rather gratified, or at least disinclined to grumble. 
Now, however, we have reached the stage of real 
darkness. To go out in it is, as I heard a servant 
remark, like going into the coal-hole without a candle. 
There are parts of the town in which even the soberest 
man may walk into a tree or a lamp-post, and there 
is almost no part of the town in which during the 
dark of the moon a man may not fall down a flight 
of stone steps and will not, if he does not carry an 
electric torch. Perhaps the best compensation 
Londoners have been given for the darkness is the 
pleasing variety of the means by which the lights 
have been dimmed in different neighbourhoods. In 
some suburbs the lamps look as though they had 
been dirtied like a slut's face. Elsewhere they wear 
masks pierced with holes, and are terrible and black 
like inquisitors or mediaeval executioners. Some of 
them are blue, some green, some brown, some 
flamingo-coloured. London, that lawless city, was 
never more admirably lawless than in this. Light 
falls from many of them like the veils that little 
children wear in Catholic countries on taking their 
first communion. From others it falls like the 
garment of a ghost. Other lights give the effect of 
a row of Chinese lanterns hung high above a high 
street. But there is no sense of merriment amid all 
these fantastic odds and ends of lights. The light 
regulations have manifestly muted the life of London. 
Even the Australian and Canadian soldiers who 
pace so determinedly up and down the Strand and 
hang in groups round every corner, have an elfin 
unsubstantial appearance among the shadows. Men 
not in khaki look black as Hamlets. Girls of the 
plainest are mysteries till one hears their voices. 
The porches of theatres are filled with a blue mystic 
light that would make one speak in whispers. Night 



certainly falls on London like a blanket. Perhaps 
it is mostly illusion. There is, as they say, all the 
fun of the fair going on for those who are young and 
giddy of heart, and London is not without laughter 
and loud voices and reeling figures. But the effect 
is, undoubtedly, depressing. Public-houses, darkened 
like prisons, no longer invite the mob with bright 
and vulgar windows. Cinematograph theatres are 
as gloomy-fronted as though over their doors they 
bore the motto : " Abandon hope, all ye who enter 
here." Rather than venture into such a wilderness 
of joylessness, many people prefer to sit at home 
and play tiddleywinks. Or argue. How they argue! 
Luckily, in the beginning, there were created, along 
with the earth, a sun and a moon, and neither 
policeman nor magistrate nor any other creature 
has any power over them of regulation or control. 
It is the moon that makes London by night beauti- 
ful in war-time. It is the moon that makes the 
north side of Trafalgar Square white with romance 
like a Moorish city, and makes the South Kensing- 
ton Museum itself appear as though it had been 
built to music. London under the moon is a city of 
wonder, a city of fair streets and fair citizens. Under 
the moon the arc-lamps in their cowls no longer 
affect us like sentinel killjoys. They seem feeble 
and insignificant as dying torches when the moon- 
light performs her miracles and exalts this city of 
mean dwellings into a beauty equal to that of the 
restless sea. 


Revenge is a thing for which none of us in cold 
blood has a good word to say. It is a ridiculous 
property of melodrama. It is quite evident, how- 
ever, to anyone who pays even a little attention to 
the conversations going on everywhere around him 
just now, that the spirit of revenge is alive and 
kicking in the world at large. Indeed, if one 
examines one's own heart after reading an account 
of the latest exploits of the German machine of 
horror in Belgium, one will probably find the spirit 
of revenge alive and kicking there. It is at its 
birth a generous instinct enough. It is the same 
instinct that inspired the great opening of Milton's 
sonnet : 

"Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughtered saints whose 

Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold." 

One thinks of helpless men and women in the 
grip of some swooping pestilence, of some beast 
outside Nature, and one desires the utter destruction 
of this evil thing with as little scruple as one desires 
the end of an epidemic of scarlet fever. This is up 
to a point justifiable even commendable. There 
is no murder in wishing the death and burial of 
Prussianism especially of Prussianism let loose in 
Belgium. Prussianism, which is simply the per- 
fected spirit of Imperialism, is a plague among the 
nations. It is a burden of which the world must 
get rid, or else the world as we know it at its best will 
perish. It is quite reasonable to demand that, if 



the Allies win in the present war, Prussianism will 
be made impossible for the rest of history. It is 
one thing, however, to wish to give the death blow 
to Prussianism ; it is quite another thing to wish to 
injure Germany or the German people. This is 
where revenge comes in. The spirit of revenge is 
a kind of unthinking justice, which is only satisfied 
when every outrage has been answered by another 
outrage. It would be glad to see the Allies repeat- 
ing in Germany every incident of pillage and 
massacre of which the Germans have been guilty 
in Belgium. An instance of this spirit will be found 
in the comment of a Londoner on the destruction 
of Louvain : " Well, the Germans have cities that 
are worth burning. There's Heidelberg. . . ." 

One hears a good many things said about the 
Kaiser which are friskings of the same spirit of 
vengeance. I heard the other day a Territorial dis- 
cussing what it would be best to do with the Kaiser 
when he was caught. " I wouldn't send him to St. 
Helena," he said; "that would be too honourable; 
it would be treating him like Napoleon. As a mat- 
ter of fact, I don't think we'll catch him. He's a 
damned plucky chap, and I feel sure he'll die rather 
than let himself be captured. But, if we do catch 
him, I think he ought to be sent to 1'Ile du Diable 
that place where Dreyfus was." I heard much 
the same kind of conversation from a little burning- 
eyed man who addressed me on the top of a bus in 
Oxford Street as though I were a public meeting. 
"The Kayser," he said, " do you know what I'd 
like to do to him ? If I 'adn't a wife and three 
children to provide for, nothing would give me more 
satisfaction than to go out on the field of battle and 
shoot 'im dead with my own 'and, if I was to die for 
it the next minute." " 'Ear, 'ear," a lady with 
peroxide hair turned round and interrupted him. 
" People s'y," the little man went on contemptu- 



ously, "send 'im to St. 'Elena. W'y should 'e live 
in luxury in St. 'Elena? And I'm not sure if I 
would shoot 'im. Shooteen's too honourable for 'im." 
He tapped me on the knee confidentially. " I'd send 
'im to Sigh-beria," he rasped, with the air of com- 
mitting a dreadful secret to me, " there to live in 
tawtcher ! " It may be retorted that the people who 
talk like this do not mean what they say that, if 
they did suddenly find themselves invested with 
power of life and death over the Kaiser, they would 
probably treat him as humanely as was consistent 
with depriving him of opportunities to escape 
or to repeat his crimes. Napoleon was regarded 
until he was captured as a fiend almost too horrible 
to be allowed to exist. Once he was captured, he 
fascinated even the English sailors who carried him 
away, We like to take our revenges these days in 
words, not in deeds. We have lost most of the 
delight our savage forefathers used to experience in 
the physical sufferings of their enemies. We have 
not yet, however, ceased entirely to delight in the 
thought of these sufferings. 

Revenge is certainly one of the oldest and most 
natural of the passions. It is as old as the day on 
which Moses slew the Egyptian. It goes back to the 
year in which Achilles dragged the body of Hector 
round the walls of Troy. It is still a powerful force 
in the lives of many subject nationalities. The Finn 
and the Pole can appreciate the motives of Moses 
to-day at least they could yesterday. Revenges, 
such as the assassination of Bobrikoff, are regarded 
as executions rather than murders. There are cases 
of revenge, indeed, with which nearly all of us would 
be half in sympathy even if we felt bound to disap- 
prove of them. The man who avenges an injury 
done to his wife or his children is seldom regarded 
as a criminal on the same level as the man who 
avenges an injury merely to himself. Most of us 

17 c 


would admit that there are two kinds of revenge 
the selfish and the unselfish and that in unselfish 
revenge there is a quality of nobleness. One of the 
greatest heroes of every generous schoolboy's imagi- 
nation is Hannibal, sworn from his childhood to 
vengeance upon Rome. We are still capable of this 
national vengefulness, though the moralists do not 
encourage it. The Irish, we may be sure, charged 
all the more resolutely at Fontenoy, owing to their 
watchword, " Remember Limerick ! " The desire 
to settle national accounts of this kind is deep-seated 
and a powerful motive in war. One would expect 
that, in the present war, the French would fight with 
greater determination than any of their allies, owing 
to their long-expressed desire to avenge the humilia- 
tions of 1870. If they do not do so, it is because 
organisation is even more effective than the spirit of 
revenge. Certainly, one has no desire to see venge- 
ance proved efficient. It never does settle accounts 
in a final manner. We see in every record of feud 
or vendetta a foolish give-and-take of crime, to which 
there is no logical end but the extermination of one 
side. A Capulet kills a Montague, who has to be 
avenged. A Capulet is killed, and again vengeance 
must be taken. Kill another Montague, and another 
Capulet must perish. However one's sympathies may 
lie at the beginning of the feud, before long the 
imagination sickens at this monotonous serial of 
murder. Sooner or later the heart turns to magna- 
nimity for relief. It might equally well have begun 
with it. Both in private and public life we find that 
vengeance sets us sliding down an inclined plane of 

One has an excellent example of this in the 
relations between Protestants and Catholics during, 
at least, two centuries. Mary burned Protestants 
in England; Elizabeth massacred Catholics in 
Ireland. France maltreated Protestants; Eng- 



land in retort outlawed Catholics. Each could 
or at least did always point to some previous 
crime committed by the other to justify its own 
crime. One found the same criminal tit-for-tat 
in Ulster only yesterday, when an attack on a 
Protestant Sunday-school excursion at Castledawson 
was answered by outrages upon Catholics in the 
Belfast shipyards. The history of the present war 
has been full of the small change of revenge. 
Germans were nearly kicked to death by the mob 
in the streets of Brussels. Englishmen had perilous 
experiences at the hands of the mob in Berlin. 
Outrages of this kind, in all probability, have not 
been so general as the Press has made out. I am 
sure that, if stories of humanity made as sensational 
" copy " as stories of brutality, the papers would 
have been as full of the former as of the latter. 
The Press, however, thrives on the spirit of ven- 
geance. The German Press is eager to rouse the 
spirit of vengeance in the German people. The 
English Press or a part of it is eager to rouse 
the spirit of vengeance in the English people. Con- 
sequently, each country hears a good deal more 
than the worst of the other, and a good deal less 
than the best. I do not mean to suggest that the 
armies of the Allies have committed crimes such as 
the burning of Louvain or that the guilt of the 
Germans is not colossal. But one prefers to see 
the peoples spurred on to fight chivalrously rather 
than in the spirit of wild revenge. One would 
not like to see the armies of the Allies devoured 
with a passion for answering outrage with outrage, 
horror with horror. One has no love for this book- 
keeping in murder. 

Outrages should incite us to overthrow the out- 
rager. That is all. The women he has defiled 
cannot be restored to happiness by the unhappiness 
of yet other women. A dead German child will 



not bring a dead Belgian child to life again. 
Louvain will not rise from its ashes even though 
you burn down Heidelberg to the last book in its 
libraries. One can see at once what a world of 
futilities one would be led into by revenge. The 
truth isthat in thisworld it isalmost always impossible 
to make the punishment fit the crime without 
becoming a criminal oneself and a futile one at 
that. Among primitive races men resort to torture 
in order to inflict adequate punishment on the 
guilty. Civilised peoples have again and again 
reverted to this method of barbarism ; indeed, they 
clung to it with bitter faith till within the last 
century. It would be difficult to show that it ever 
lessened crime. It has been ineffective as a weapon 
of virtue and has in a hundred cases been turned 
against the most virtuous citizens in the State. 
Nobody now approves in theory, at least of 
vindictiveness in punishment. We believe almost 
as little in cruelty to criminals as in cruelty to 
children. We would not break a man on the 
wheel or torture him on the rack or burn him 
over a slow fire, no matter how abominable his 
crime. It is not that he might not deserve it. It 
is simply that we feel we should become base our- 
selves in answering his crime in that way. This, 
I admit, is armchair philosophy. If one were a 
Belgian if one had seen one's home devastated, 
one's women violated, one's dwellings razed to the 
ground one would no doubt see red in one's hatred 
of so remorseless an enemy. One might even 
though, I confess, I do not see how any but the 
unimaginative or the distraught could feel such a 
rage as the Psalmist felt when he desired God to 
dash the heads of the little children of his enemies 
against the stones. On the other hand, when one 
thinks the matter out calmly, one can see no clear 
and honest way of revenge but to heap coals of fire 



on an enemy's head. When one hears that the 
crew of a German mine-layer has been rescued 
from death by British sailors, one knows that the 
British sailors have done the right thing. That is 
the only kind of revenge which does not darken the 
light of the sun the revenge of magnanimity. 


Many authors have written in defence of the goat, 
the goose, and the ass. They have contended, and 
not without a good show of argument, that the goat, 
the goose, and the ass are maligned and beautiful 
animals. Mr. W. H. Hudson has written an apol- 
ogia for the goose which is one of the most attractive 
of contemporary essays. So far as I can remember, 
one of his brightest examples of intelligence in the 
goose family was a gander which tried to open a 
gate by pushing it with the flat of its foot. Probably, 
if one were sufficiently intimate with the higher life 
of the goat, one would be able to quote a parallel 
miracle of good sense. But, in spite of all the artists 
and naturalists have done on behalf of the reputation 
of these three animals, the world at large, following 
the tradition, has insisted upon regarding them as 
patterns of brainlessness, stubbornness, and noise. 

Of the three, the ass has suffered most from 
abuse. At the same time it has also been the most 
glorified. It appears and reappears in paintings of 
the life of Christ like a household pet. One sees it 
pacing the little winding roads among the little hills 
in a hundred pictures of the Holy Family. The very 
cross upon its back is said to have been bestowed 
upon it as a memento of the day on which it bore 
Christ over the palms into Jerusalem. The Chris- 
tian Church in some parts of Europe at one period 
held a festival in its honour on the I4th of January 
in commemoration of the Flight into Egypt. During 
the feast, as it was observed at Beauvais so we are 
told in all the books on the medieval drama an ass, 
ridden by a beautiful girl carrying a baby or doll, 



was led into the church to hear Mass, and, as the 
service went on, the people honoured it by chanting 
" Hee-haw " wherever the responses should have 
been given. The ass, which at times seems to have 
been a wooden figure, was greeted, we are told, with 
an address, a part of which has been translated, 
" From the Eastern lands the Ass is come, beautiful 
and very brave, well fitted to bear burdens. Up, Sir 
Ass, and sing ! Open your pretty mouth. Hay will 
be yours in plenty and oats in abundance." At the 
end of the service the priest brayed instead of saying 
Itf, missa est, and the congregation responded with a 
triple "Hee-haw! Hee-haw! Hee-haw!" This 
may in its origin have been a festival in praise of an 
ass's good deeds. But it was clearly transformed in 
time into a festival of the comic sense at which men 
purged themselves of the arrears of blasphemy and 
irreverence that were stored up in their bosoms. 
The ass became a means of insult, not an object of 
worship; and since the Middle Ages it has been the 
men of letters rather than the priests who have 
regarded it with something like affectionate esteem. 
It is possible that the veneration of the ass may in 
some way be descended from some pre-Christian 
form of ass-worship. The Egyptians worshipped 
Seth in the similitude of an ass, and one of the 
scandalous charges against the Jews was that they 
were ass-worshippers, or, in the more learned word, 
onolaters. They were believed even to fatten some 
profane person, such as a Greek, every five years, 
to sacrifice to their ass-deity. The scandal was 
afterwards transferred to the Christians, and Tertul- 
lian has left a story of an apostate Jew who carried 
an ass-eared figure through the streets of Carthage, 
with an inscription saying that this was the god of 
the Christians. A third-century caricature of the 
Crucifixion, in which the figure on the cross has an 
ass's head, is suggestive of the popularity of the ass 



legend, and some authorities have even seen a 
mockery of the Christian religion in the fantastic 
humour of the Golden Ass of Apuleius. It will be 
seen that the ass has had a harlequin career. He 
has been a god, and he has supplied a head to Bot- 
tom the weaver. Mr. Wells, in one of the most 
brilliant satires of Boon, has further proclaimed the 
beast's presence in the House of Commons and in 
the offices of British newspapers, and has stated one 
of the great problems of the hour as the problem of 
driving the wild asses of the Devil back into Hell. 

There is certainly no greater peril to the world 
than the ass. There is also no greater peril to the 
ass than the ass. It was the asininity of the Stuarts 
which lost them the English throne. It was the 
stubborn asininity of George III. which lost Eng- 
land the American colonies. It was to the asininity 
of Marie Antoinette that was partly due the un- 
governable rage of the French Revolution. History 
is an epic of the destruction of asses or of the 
destruction which asses have brought upon innocent 
people. The ass has cut this prominent figure 
in history because its stubbornness is more lasting 
than character and more persistent than wisdom. 
The wise man will get tired of being wise before 
the ass gets tired of being an ass. That is the 
ass's strength. Its bray echoes down the centuries 
like the voice of a conqueror. It has invaded not 
only the sanctuary, but politics, literature and the 
arts. For the most part, each generation forgets 
the asses of the generation before. Even when a 
Pope writes a Dunciad we find it difficult to read. 
We become overwhelmed in the presence of such 
a multitude of asses. We feel we have enough of 
our own. And yet, unless we realise what the 
human ass has accomplished in past ages, we shall 
be in danger of underestimating the peril he is to 
our own time. Had it not been for the ass, it is 

2 4 


possible that we should have arrived at the New 
Jerusalem, or by whatever name you prefer to call 
the golden city, long ago. But the ass has always 
insisted upon knowing better than anyone else, and, 
on the plea that it objected to its present driver, 
has lain down at the side of the muddy road. It 
always seems to be suggesting that, if it only had 
another driver, it would proceed on its journey at 
a gallop. But give it another driver, and it still 
protests. Of all animals it is said to have almost 
the least social sense. It is infinitely less responsive 
than a cat. If only the asses could unite together 
they would make the world an impossible place to 
live in. But they do not even understand that group- 
consciousness which, in one of its forms, we call 
patriotism. They indulge in a " Hee-haw " patriot- 
ism of their own, it is true, but it seldom gets 
beyond a " Hee-haw." It is merely a bray and 
obstructiveness. Soon the face resumes its placid 
insensibility. The ass is as unteachable as he is 
serious-looking. He always looks serious, even at 
times at which one suspects him of something like 
frivolity. There was an asinine seriousness about 
the proceedings of a local body the other day which 
ordered the deletion of a German manufacturer's 
name from the face of the municipal clock. Ob- 
viously, the adult males who passed a resolution 
to this effect had utterly failed to realise that we 
are in the midst of the most serious crisis that has 
come upon the world for more than a century. No 
one with what is called horse-sense could have ever 
dreamed that the cause of freedom in Europe could 
be aided by scratching a few letters off the face of a 
clock. But it is exactly the sort of idea which 
appeals to the ass-sense of human beings. A few 
days later appeared a letter from a gentleman urging 
his fellow-countrymen to imitate the example of 
this body in regard to the names of London streets 



and squares. He said that it was a national disgrace 
that London should possess a Teutonically-named 
Hanover Square. Luckily, diversions of this kind 
from the serious business of the war have very little 
effect. But they are sufficiently numerous to 
suggest that the ass is a far from extinct animal in 

And there are much more serious cases than this. 
There are a number of gentlemen with seats in the 
Houses of Parliament whose minds are continually 
busy with the same kind of serious frivolities and 
obstinate inanities. The finest materials for the 
natural history of the ass exist not in Buffon, but 
in Hansard. One authority upon asses has written 
that "it would be interesting to find out what were 
the different conditions that made one variety of 
wild ass a shy animal and another variety of ass an 
inquisitive animal." As to the conditions I do not 
propose to discuss them. But as to the existence 
of the inquisitive "variety of ass "do not every 
day's Parliamentary reports bear painful witness to 
it ? First, there is the kind that asks whether the 
Home Office is aware that a little girl whose grand- 
mother, though born in Italy, had a German step- 
aunt, is employed on a sewing-machine in the 
neighbourhood of a munitions factory in Bubbletown, 
and whether he will undertake to have her interned 
without further delay. Then there is the sort that 
asks whether it is the case that Lord Haldane was 
seen eating sausages during a recent visit to Switzer- 
land, whether this is not evidence of pro-German 
sympathies, whether the Government commissioned 
him to eat the sausages, and whether the sausages 
were paid for at the nation's expense or out of Lord 
Haldane's own pocket. Yet a third variety is in- 
quisitive about neutrals. It does not exactly know 
what a neutral is. It regards " neutral " as a word 
which means somebody who ought to be hostile to 


Germany, but isn't. It thinks that the word ought 
to mean one who is at the beck and call of the 
Allies. This kind of " inquisitive animal " would in 
all probability denounce America for having aban- 
doned her neutrality if she were able and willing to 
supply munitions to Germany as she has done to 
England. He "hee-haws" about small nations 
when Belgium is mentioned, but when he is roused 
against Holland or Greece he declares his readiness 
to make war on them as "petty States." It is im- 
possible for him to get it into his head that, though 
the passage of contraband goods into Germany may 
be a serious matter, it would be still more serious 
to add a new ally to the armies of the Central 
Powers. He is ready to challenge all the nations 
of the earth. He regards the Foreign Office ap- 
parently as an institution which exists for the 
purpose of smuggling meat and munitions into 
Germany. He will trust no Foreign Office which 
does not put neutrals under lock and key. He 
contributes nothing but noise and obstinacy to a 
situation which demands, above all things, brains. 
One scarcely knows whether he is more stupid or 
mischievous. Mrs. Wharton in her book on Fight- 
ing France observes that, in her opinion, the fine 
and determined spirit in which the French are 
waging the war is due above all to their national 
intelligence. There is abundance of intelligence 
in England, too, but there is a constant danger of 
its being of no avail owing to the obstinate and 
opinionated quadrupeds that are continually setting 
themselves across its path. On the side of asininity 
the gods themselves fight in vain, and, though it 
was geese that saved the Roman Capitol, one may 
be quite sure that it is not asses that are going to 
save the imperilled freedom of Europe. 


It would be interesting to make a register of the 
adult males of England in terms of those who 
never go into a public-house from one year's end 
to the other, those who sometimes do so, and those 
who regularly do so. The last two classes, I imagine, 
would greatly outnumber the first. England is a 
public-house-going nation. She drank beer under 
the sign of the Seven Stars and rested the soles of 
her feet in the sawdust at the bar of the Salutation 
and Cat long before Columbus lost himself at sea 
or Isaac Newton began to take note of falling apples. 
Is not the very word " public-house " an epitome of 
the history of a nation's pleasure ? The bishops have 
never succeeded in making the churches public-houses 
in the degree in which the inns are public-houses. 
There have been periods in history when men have 
been compelled by law to go to church, but no law 
was ever needed to drive a man into an inn. He 
has found here as nowhere else the medicine of 
fancy, the elixir vitae. He has found here a true 
house of peers, in which Oliver Cromwell's ideal 
that every Jack shall be a gentleman is realised 
as it has not yet been realised in politics. The 
public-houses in cities are not, I admit, so demo- 
cratic as that. Their public bars and private bars 
and saloon bars and jug-and-bottle entrances wall 
off the classes from each other like animals in cages, 
and in some of them even a row of little shutters, 
at the height of a man's face, conceals the respect- 
able tradesman from his carter who may be roaring 
in the four-ale bar. None the less, the public-house 
is, on the whole, a place of relaxation and friendliness. 



Men who have left their homes with sour faces 
here find no difficulty in beaming upon perfect 
strangers. The same man who has just argued 
himself too poor to afford to buy his child a 
pair of shoes that will keep out the rain, here 
swells into a balloon of generosity and becomes a 
prince of the golden age while the money lasts. 
Such an atmosphere of generosity, indeed, dwells 
in the public-house like a guardian spirit that the 
law has had on more than one occasion to step in 
and forbid men to be excessively friends with one 
another. Thus it was made illegal for wages to 
be paid in public houses, for fear that men in a 
wild intoxication of brotherhood might pour out 
their gold like a gift. And now comes the no- 
treating order as another fetter upon this easy 
traditional charity. It is no longer possible to 
pay for another man's drink in a London public- 
house, whether he be your friend or whether he 
be one of those homeless nightbirds with the 
sadness of defeat in their hollow eyes, for whom 
all is lost save beer. 

Many writers have, during the last few months, 
been denouncing the treating system as the root 
of much evil, and I have no doubt that it has 
often resulted in men drinking far more than they 
either wished or had a head for. Treating was 
not always so voluntary, such a matter of goodwill, 
as it appeared. Sometimes one was practically 
compelled to treat ; at other times one was practi- 
cally compelled to be treated. The second of the 
alternatives was, perhaps, the more painful. There 
were youths of a certain class and at a certain stage 
of riotousness who took it as a personal insult if an 
acquaintance did not drink with them, and having 
won their point in regard to this, also took it as a 
personal insult if the drink ordered were not of a 
sufficiently strong variety. Ginger ale and lemonade 



they hated as the Devil is said to hate holy water. 
Sometimes they flatly refused to pay for " soft 
drinks" of this kind. They glowered upon the 
drinker of shandygaff as a Laodicean. They justly 
abominated the man, being above seventeen years of 
age, who called for public-house claret. To be treated 
by men of this kind was something of a servitude. 
At times the victim of the tyrannies of treating 
could be seen stealthily pouring an undesired glass 
of whiskey into a flower-pot, into a fire-place, on 
the floor, anywhere except down his throat. But 
this has always been regarded as an outrage upon 
hospitality, and the perpetrator of such a deed 
has earned the black opinions of good and bad 
men alike. 

It would be absurd, however, to pretend that 
the treating system put all of us to such discomforts 
and shifts. Many men protested against a second 
third, fourth or fourteenth drink, but their protests 
were half-hearted, or they would have got up and 
gone home. The protester was usually a kingdom 
divided against itself. Reason sternly said one 
thing, and a smiling stomach or was it a smiling 
heart? said another. It was only a rationalist 
of the strictest sect, who, having attained to a 
certain hazy and golden view of the world, could 
without a pang, rise up and go out into the streets 
of disillusion. It was a kind of anticipation of 
death. For convinced and professional drinkers 
the end of the world came every night with the 
monotonous cry of the pot-boy, "Time, gentlemen, 
please!" and the final clanging of the doors. From the 
company of rosy-faced friends they went out among 
skeletons and shadows. Their wills still hovered 
among the fumes and tobacco smoke of those haunts 
of friendship after their departure, as the souls in 
Plato are still bound after death to their earthly 
desires. They had had playmates, they had had 



companions, and now they were as chill and 
solitary as a ghost under the moon. These, it 
may be urged, are not the typical good fellows of 
the public-houses, but diseased specimens, creatures 
of one idea. This may be, but they are in the 
tradition of social drinking in a degree their sober 
contemporaries are not. They are heirs of the 
Mermaid Tavern, of the days of Steele and Addison, 
of the days of Pitt and Fox and Sheridan, of the 
days of Lamb and Coleridge. They are the 
brothers of Falstaff, now sunk upon tradesman 
days and grown leaner at the waist. They are 
proportionately fewer now than they have been for 
centuries, but even to-day they are more numerous 
than the Knights of the Round Table. Or were 
so yesterday. And now the war has killed them. 

At least it has struck at their self-respect a blow 
from which it will not easily recover. Hitherto 
they were able to gather round the bar as models 
of altruism. Theirs was a freemasonry of fellowship. 
The give-and-take of drink warmed them like virtue 
in action. Each man, as it were, drank not only 
his private whiskey or beer, but a communal nectar. 
Now that the law has forbidden treating, however, 
if a man is to go on drinking with his friends, 
he will have an uneasy feeling that he is drinking 
alone that he is, in the slang term of reproach, a 
" dumb boozer." He will be paying for himself all the 
time instead of for others. He will be the sort of 
person he has always wanted to kick, since he was a 
tiny boy and hated his school-fellow for eating 
sweets by himself and never offering to share them. 
If he grows redder as to the nose and blotchier as 
to the face, he will no longer be able to tell himself, 
forgivingly, " That is the price of being a good 
fellow." These things will henceforth seem the 
emblems of self-indulgence, and worthier of a place 
in a teetotaler's tract than in a good man's counte- 


nance. To tell the truth, the no-treating order 
has taken the virtue out of drinking. After all, men 
did drink out of charitableness as well as from 
thirst, and it was not entirely to their discredit. 
That is why I would say a very gentle farewell to 
all those walking bonfires of bibulousness which 
are now being quenched, I admit, but nevertheless, 
may they smoulder in peace ! 

Hapless, too, is the case of the sponger, the 
cheerful Jack Point of the public-houses, he who 
could entertain all day with his conversation the 
meanest and the stupidest of mankind, provided only 
his tankard was kept full. He was often the 
brightest figure in the public-house sometimes 
the best-dressed. He was fond of boasting of his 
relationship with some great personage a states- 
man, a peer, or a man of letters. His eye never 
wearied of gleaming as, making use of the ancient 
jest, he deduced his downfall from " slow horses 
and fast women." Sometimes he was a broken- 
down actor, sometimes he was a broken-down 
doctor. In either case he was always ready to accept 
drink, and, a moment later, tobacco, and then he 
would hold his host by the elbow in a little 
whispered conference, during which the question 
of a small loan anything up to a million and down to 
twopence would be discussed. What will happen 
to that lean champion of the breed who used to 
come through the doors like Hamlet, uttering 
" Oho ! " in every kind of voice, from the sepulchral 
to the triumphant ? Perhaps he has been dead 
for years. If he is not, how fallen on evil days ! 
How very sepulchral his " Oho ! " must have grown 
by this time ! How starved his mirth ! No more, 
at mention of a drink, will he look with dreaming 
eyes into the face of his benefactor, and say : 
" ' Kind hearts are more than coronets and simple 
faith than Norman blood.' 



Tennyson, my boy, Tennyson. Do you know it ? " 
No more, after the second hour of drinking, will 
he raise the question of what character in literature 
he most resembles, answering the question himself, 
" Sydney Carton," and then melancholily adding, 
" all but the bravery." Farewell, a long farewell, 
to all his drinking ! He, too, has been quenched 
in these labouring days. Pity his passing, and be 
not too severe on one who was after all a not too 
distant relation of Jack Falstaff. 



London is, I imagine, at the present time fuller of 
refugees than she has ever been at any period in her 
history. Belgium presents a spectacle such as has 
not previously been known in our time. She is a 
nation in flight. One cannot pass down the Strand 
without seeing evidence of this tragic migration. 
Red 'buses carry her refugees in batches to the doors 
of relief offices, where men, women, and children, with 
their pathetic packages, dismount with the air of 
people who live in perpetual rain. They do not look 
exactly like figures in a grand tragedy. They simply 
look dismal, as if they had had a bad crossing ; they 
are washed out like women who have been sitting 
up all night with a dying man. Some of them are 
fortunately stolid, and accept their fate without 
losing the colour from their cheeks. But as one 
allows oneself to realise the meaning of this proces- 
sion of homeless people in actual suffering, one can- 
not doubt that one is witnessing one of the most 
heartbreaking of the world's tragedies. Think for a 
moment what it would be to have London, or Glas- 
gow, or Dublin in flight in this manner what it 
must be to have a modern city foundering like the 
Titanic and its citizens scrambling out for dear life, 
and with no time to gather up all those little follies 
of property which yesterday were the main source 
of one's pride in being alive. One can fancy the 
wild march of the millions of London ladies from 
Mayfair, hooligans, poets, grocers, publicans' assist- 
ants, navvies, clerks, children from the slums, old 
men, milliners, newsboys, coal-heavers, mothers 
toiling, with something of the lost look of Napoleon's 



army retreating from Moscow, along the roads that 
led to the harbours where the boats for America lay. 
One's property would have become worthless as dust 
in a single night ; one's home, one's world in little, 
no better than a barn. There are, no doubt, many 
of the more prosperous Belgian refugees who have 
not been left quite so impoverished as that. But 
how many thousands there must be whose fortune is 
scarcely more than the clothes on their backs ! That 
is a fate which might befall any of us so long as the 
era of wars of conquest lasts. In justice, indeed, one 
would think it ought to have fallen on almost any of 
us rather than the Belgians. They are not sufferers 
from any ambition of their own. They suffer simply 
because they happened to be in the way. 

There is no figure in legend or history that makes 
a greater appeal to the imagination than the fugitive, 
whether it be Cain flying from the side of his 
murdered brother, or Lot and his wife escaping from 
the cities of the plain, or Noah and his caravan of 
two-legged and four-legged animals going aboard the 
ark with the threat of the floods pursuing them. 
There are few incidents which seem in the same 
measure to gather up into themselves all the world's 
romance as the flight of Joseph and Mary and the 
Child into Egypt. In glancing back over history, 
indeed, one can almost persuade oneself that it is the 
fugitives that have inherited the earth. Half the 
great characters in history seem to have been fugi- 
tives at one time or another, from Moses to Plato, 
from the Christian Apostles to Mazzini. One sees 
in the Jews an example of an entire race of refugees, 
and in the United States of America an instance of a 
nation with refugees for its first fine citizens and its 
patron saints. The world owes almost more to its 
runaways than to its soldiers. Every student of 
industrial history knows the debt of England to 
fugitives from France and Flanders. Low Country- 



men brought cotton to Lancashire. It was the 
Flemish weavers flying from the Spaniards who 
brought over the silk manufacture. Huguenots took 
linen to Ireland. Glassmaking came with refugees 
from France and Italy. It is probable that nations 
owe far more to being invaded by refugees than to 
being invaded by conquerors. It is refugees, not con- 
querors, who are the advance guard of international- 
ism. It is they and not the warriors who spread 
culture over the earth. None the less there is 
infinite tragedy in their fate. One thinks of the 
evicted nation as a crucified nation. There is hardly 
anything which human beings dread more than exile. 
I do not mean by this the voluntary exile of the 
adventurer, the colonist. That is one of the lures of 
youth. It is a step into the light. Real exile is 
another matter. It is an escape as it were from a 
falling house, a flight into the unknown. Not always 
is the exile in the bitter case of those wanderers who 
sat down and wept by the waters of Babylon. But 
if he is conscious of his exile, the world cannot but 
be a vast prison to him. There is no liberty for the 
man who has not the liberty to go home. The 
refugee is a man driven out with a flaming sword. 
The world had its fill of Russian, Italian, Polish, and 
Irish exiles in the nineteenth century. So numerous 
were they that a new nation might have been made 
of them. They were so abundant that people in the 
end began to get a little tired and even to see the 
funny side of them. Not all of them had the pas- 
sionate dignity of Mazzini, who wore mourning for 
his country as though it were in the grave. But even 
Mazzini rather puzzled some of his friends in 
England as though he were a monomaniac, a man 
with a fixed idea. Probably one does become a man 
with a fixed idea if one is without a country, just as 
one would become a man with a fixed idea if one 
were without food. It may be that it is easier to live 



without a country than without food : the way we 
see Germans and Irish settling down in America and 
forgetting their old homes suggests that it is. But 
even they, one imagines, never quite forget the skies 
they have deserted for the commoner skies they have 
taken in exchange. They would not go home except 
for a holiday, but the songs they like best to sing are 
songs about home. They would feel traitors and 
runaways if they did not pay this lip-service on at 
least one day in the year to the country of their 
birth. That it is so often mere lip-service, is, per- 
haps, the reason that has made Turgenev and Mr. 
Conrad so severe on the Russian exile. One remem- 
bers, too, Mr. Kipling's parody on the " Exile of 
Erin " who had no sooner set foot in America than 

"He was Alderman Mike inthroducin' a Bill." 

Unfortunately, Mr. Kipling is constitutionally unfit 
to distinguish between the tragic kind of exile and 
the comic kind of exile. He is the grand indicter of 
the unsuccessful races, and he does not recognise the 
right of the loser in the fight to carry his sorrows 
with him to a home that is no home in a strange 

In this Mr. Kipling is at odds with the sense of 
the human race. Man has from very early times 
regarded the fugitive as in some manner a sacred per- 
son. He has provided in his temples and his churches 
a sanctuary where the pursuer cannot reach him. 
Even the murderer flying from justice could claim 
the right to be left unharmed when once he had 
gained the seat of sanctuary beside the altar. So 
strong is the human instinct for punishment, how- 
ever, that the right of sanctuary was in many 
countries, like Germany, denied to murderers and 
other criminals. But the idea of a sanctuary or some 
similar place of refuge prevailed unto comparatively 



modern times in most countries. The criminals of 
London used to gather and defy the law in that part 
of the city which lies between Fleet Street and the 
Thames Alsatia, as it was called. Possibly some 
instinct in us, something deeply rooted in the religi- 
ous spirit, tells us that we are all in some sort 
refugees, whether we picture ourselves as flying from 
the Hound of Heaven or from the wrath to come. 
And in still another sense the human race has often 
been depicted as a race of exiles. We are exiles, if 
not fugitives, from the perfect city. We are sojourners 
and strangers under the sun : we build houses of 
a day in the valleys of death. There seems to be no 
patriotism of the earth for many of those, like St. 
Paul, whose patriotism is in Heaven. Their psalms 
and hymns are like native songs remembered by 
those who will admit no citizenship here. The 
saint is still a foreigner in every land, a sorrowing 
refugee from skies not ours. Most of us, however, 
make our reconciliation with the earth and become 
her naturalised subjects; a few, like Meredith, even 
find in her a goddess to worship. But it may be 
doubted whether the greatest worldling among us 
is not sometimes haunted by the feeling that he has 
no home on the earth save as a naturalised alien. 

And so, in the last analysis, these refugees, with 
their little scraps of red, yellow, and black ribbon 
on their breasts, who run into us at every street 
corner, are nearer to us than cousins ; they are our 
images and shadows. They are types of a race 
that comes and goes like the swallows and have no 
continuing city upon earth. They are doubly 
stricken, however. They fly from a double doom. 
They are pursued not only by the terror of death, 
but by the terror of life. They are poor, blind 
things in a rout, broken families, mothers who have 
lost their children, helpless as cattle on a ship 
during a gale. One realises something of the 



endless tragedy of their case when ope reads how 
some of them leave notices chalked up on walls and 
doors along the roads as signals to their friends : 

Pieter Vaubelle is at Putte. 
Jan Dewilde, come home. 
Louis Vernilge, where are you ? 

It is the restoration of these poor, lost creatures to 
the kingdom of their old lives and liberties that is 
the object for which one most immediately and 
passionately longs in this war. In the inhuman 
dispersal of the Belgian people we see the darkest 
condemnation of the German cause. 



It is impossible to follow the procession of excuses 
with which one German apologist after another 
attemps to justify the violation of Belgian nation- 
ality a still more abominable crime, by the way, 
than the violation of Belgian neutrality without 
being reminded of ^Esop's fable of The Wolf and the 
Lamb : 

" As a wolf was lapping at the head of a running 
brook he spied a stray lamb paddling at some 
distance down the stream. Having made up his 
mind to seize her, he bethought himself how he 
might justify his violence. ' Villain ! ' said he, 
running up to her, * how dare you muddle the water 
that I am drinking?' 'Indeed,' said the Lamb humbly, 
' I do not see how I can disturb the water, since it 
runs from you to me, not from me to you.' ' Be 
that as it may,' replied the Wolf, ' it is but a year 
ago that you called me many ill names.' 'Oh, sir!' 
said the Lamb, trembling, ' a year ago I was not 
born.' 'Well,' replied the Wolf, 'if it was not you 
it was your father, and that is all the same ; but it 
is no use trying to argue me out of my supper ' 
and without another word he fell upon the poor, 
helpless Lamb and tore her to pieces." 

"A tyrant," runs the moral of the story, "can 
always find a plea for his tyranny." 

It must be a constant source of amazement to the 
angels that so few of us mortals have the courage of 
our crimes. We go about restlessly seeking some 
means by which we may excuse them as virtues. 



Not one in a million of us can lay claim to the " robust 
conscience " which that taloned young creature, 
Hilda Wangel, used to desire in her heroes. Our 
consciences are yellow cowards which have no more 
appetite for sin than a boy in the preparatory school 
for plug tobacco. They could sit down heartily to 
a table of sins so long as these were cooked into 
imitations of the virtues, just as any of us might 
make a cheerful enough meal on the flesh of horses 
or cats provided they were disguised as oxtails or 
rabbit or stewed beans. Every one has heard of 
the man who had eaten a plate of horseflesh with 
relish under the idea that it was Christian food, and 
who, on hearing what he had eaten, at once became 
violently sick. Conscience is not usually so squeam- 
ish as that. Having by error got its teeth into 
iniquity, it decides, as a rule, to make the best of 
a bad business that is, to pull a long face and say 
no more about it. 

But why is it that we cannot be honest in our 
immorality ? Why is that we cannot say, " Evil, be 
thou my good," and openly live in that midnight 
philosophy ? It may be that we are afraid of 
shocking others because we know that most of our 
plans depend upon the good will of others for 
their accomplishment. But surely it would be 
possible to found a secret society of evil men who 
would be bound by self-interest, if not by the 
virtue of an oath to push each other to success. 
I cannot think it is entirely the opinion of others 
that forces us all to study with such passion the 
grammar and accent of virtue. It is for our own 
satisfaction, and not for our neighbours, that we 
thus practise the gait and speech of morality. Let 
our consciences lose their hold on good or, at 
least, the pretence of it and we feel as helpless as if 
we were in a ship that had lost its rudder. It may 
be only nervousness at having wandered outside 



the conventions : possibly we would be as chicken- 
hearted in presence of new virtues as of new sins. 
Even so, however, our alarm before new virtues 
is usually due to the fact that we regard them as 
sins. They seem like outrages on the standard of 
virtue under which we are gathered. It is necessary 
to our peace of mind that we should never feel we 
have betrayed that flag. Everything we do we 
must be able to represent to ourselves as something 
done in service to it. Conscience would assail us as 
traitors if we boldly changed our allegiance to the 
flag of evil. The truth is, we are slaves to virtue 
or to whatever can dress itself out as virtue as surely 
as though our flesh and blood had been sold to it in 
some savage market-place. 

There are more than one possible explanations of 
this Egyptian bondage. It may be the result of a 
thirst for righteousness, as natural as our thirst for 
air. Or it may simply be due to fear of the 
penalties for ill-doing. We know that Nature and 
society have each their retinue of spies and execu- 
tioners, and that neither Nature nor society is likely 
to let us off until they have exacted the uttermost 
farthing. Probably in most of us, there is an 
inconstant balance of righteousness and fear. It is 
the same with nations and individuals. They feel 
partly a desire for righteousness and partly that 
they can only betray righteousness at their peril. 
Man, however, has been a deceiving animal ever 
since he made acquaintance with the serpent. The 
history of magic is the history of a foolish race 
which has always believed it possible to make an 
imitation of a thing which would be as good in most 
ways as the thing itself. Imitative magic was 
supposed to command the heavens, to give one 
power over one's enemies, to deceive the listening 
gods. If you called a child by a name not its own, 
it was believed that the gods would not know of 



its existence, and so would not compass its death, 
just as if we call sin a virtue, we still believe that 
the gods will somehow or other be tricked, and will, 
therefore, not be tempted to punish it. That is 
how it comes that Germany has been driven to 
explain that her invasion of Belgium was Russia's 
fault, or France's fault, or England's fault, or even 
Belgium's fault ; the last thing she is willing to 
admit is that it was one of those simple selfish 
crimes which Empires have committed over and 
over again, since the day on which the first con- 
queror led out his naked followers with their 
bloody stone hatchets. Germany calls deliberate 
aggression self-defence, and thinks that by doing 
so she has succeeded in squaring things with 
Rhadamanthus. On the whole, one would be more 
inclined to respect her if she would blaspheme 
Rhadamanthus and avow herself unjust and an 
unbeliever. Or would one not ? It may be that 
one gets a certain comfort from seeing a nation 
taking off its hat to justice even if it passes by on 
the other side. 

So long as a man professes a belief in virtue, we 
feel that at least we who also profess a belief in 
virtue have some common ground upon which to 
argue. To attempt to make the worse appear the 
better reason is in itself to pay a sort of homage to 
the better reason. When the average anti-Socialist 
used to denounce Socialists and Trade Unionists 
as persons who would interfere with freedom of 
contract the freedom of the worker usually being 
either to starve or to take what was offered to him 
he appealed to a fine ideal in a false way. Men's 
consciences, however they may allow them to throw 
justice and decency to the winds in real life, will 
never allow them to throw justice and decency to 
the winds as aids to an argument. They are 
as unscrupulous in their profession of good as in 



their practice of evil. The human race is never so 
dishonest as when it argues. There were many 
admirable examples of dishonesty in argument during 
the recent fight against the Home Rule Bill. The 
only argument which the Unionists did not use was 
the honest argument of selfishness the argument 
that Ireland must not have self-government because 
they believed that it was to the interest of their 
country and their party that Ireland should remain 
in subjection. Instead of this they argued, on the 
one hand, that Ireland was so loyal that she had 
ceased to want Home Rule, and, on the other, that 
she was so disloyal that she wanted separation. 
They protested that Ireland was so poor that she 
could not afford Home Rule, and, at the same time, 
that she was so prosperous that she did not need it. 
They declared that Ireland enjoyed equal rights 
with England by being allowed to send representa- 
tives to a Parliament in London, yet in the next 
breath they denied that Ulster would enjoy equal 
rights with the rest of Ireland by being allowed to 
send representatives to a Parliament in Dublin. 
They ridiculed the idea of treating Ireland as a 
separate entity and swore violently when anyone 
refused to treat Ulster as a separate entity. They 
urged Protestants to fight against Home Rule on 
the ground that it would hand Ireland over to 
Popery, and they urged Catholics to fight against 
Home Rule on the ground that it would hand over 
Ireland to anti-clericalism, ^sop's Wolf was not 
half so ingenious in its argument with the Lamb as 
these Unionists were in discovering new reasons 
for making a meal of Ireland. And the worst of it 
is, so little active intelligence do even the virtuous 
possess, that many sincere and kindly people were 
taken in by this sleight-of-tongue. That is what 
drives one to despair. No honest Englishman could 
have used such arguments for the subjection of 



Ireland, just as no honest German could use the 
ordinary Prussian arguments for the overrunning 
of Belgium. But it is always possible to invent a 
case by which any number of sincere and kindly 
people will be taken in. We who are able to see 
the tragedy of King Lear as a whole are not likely 
to take sides against him with his cruel daughters. 
But suppose we had been his contemporaries. How 
could we have withstood the sweet reasonableness 
of Goneril's statement of her side of the case for 
getting rid of the old man and his retinue : 

" I do beseech you 
To understand my purposes aright : 
As you are old and reverend, you should be wise, 
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires ; 
Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold, 
That this our court, infected with their manners, 
Shows like a riotous inn : epicurism and lust 
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel 
Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak 
For instant remedy." 

There you have coward conscience, eloquent and 
plausible, afraid of nothing except of admitting the 
truth. Not one in a million Gonerils will say 
straight out : " I have the power and mean to use 
it. I regard everyone of whom I can make no use 
as a nuisance, and will get rid of him as I would of 
the body of a dead dog." Goneril could not have 
said that, even in the phrasing of a Shakespeare, 
without feeling a good deal more of a devil than 
she did feel and making herself unhappy. We can 
always remain moderately happy so long as we are 
able to keep up the pretence that we are doing 
right. That is what we call having a good con- 
science. Very few of us have the honesty or the 
common sense to see that to have a good conscience 



when one is not doing good is merely to double 
one's sin. It is far better to have no conscience at 
all. We may be sure that the statesmen of Germany 
have a perfectly good conscience in regard to 
Belgium : that is the worst of them. A good con- 
science is almost as easy to get as a bad reputation. 
Nor have the Germans a monopoly of it. There 
has always been a tremendous demand for it in 
England, too, ever since Henry VIII. cleared his 
conscience by abjuring the errors of Rome. Those 
Englishmen who ordered native Indians to be tied 
to the mouths of cannon and blown from them did 
so, beyond a doubt, with a good conscience. Even 
Bernhardi, who has a great name for callous 
Machiavellianism, continually pauses to wag his 
good conscience at us, and to explain what benefits 
the forcible extension of German culture will bestow 
upon the world at large. On the whole, the nation 
or the man with a bad conscience is in the more 
hopeful condition. A bad conscience is a conscience 
that, however nervously, is facing the facts. Is 
there a single nation in the world that has a bad 
conscience at the present moment ? If there is, let it 
hold up its hand ; it is the hope of the human race. 



Sometimes one looks forward to a holiday as a 
period of entire laziness. One longs to do nothing 
to lie in the sun on the edge of sleep to be no 
more awake than is necessary to enable one to 
enjoy the consciousness of one's nine-tenths slumber. 
So one builds oneself a castle of indolence high 
above the echoes of the working world. One is glad 
above all to escape from the groaning and grunting of 
wheeled things, which is the music of the modern 
city. One desires to get away from that rasping, 
lumbering activity of trousered mortals, which is so 
unlike the careless activity of the angels, so far as 
authorities instruct us on the matter. Eye, nose 
and ear are, all of them, violated a thousand times a 
day in the streets of the moneymakers. No flower 
blooms from the walls of the Bank of England ; wild 
roses do not grow in the Strand; larks do not 
challenge the sky from the asphalt of Trafalgar 
Square. Instead, one has the sound of wheels 
and hooters, the smell of petrol and bars and tea- 
shops and dog-shops and chemists and human 
beings, the contact with men and women who are 
less real to one than figures in a dream, the spectacle 
of a multitude of hats and trousers and skirts, of 
shop-fronts with ever so commonplace letters over 
the window, of traffic discoloured and confused, of 
policemen, of old men selling the Westminster 
Gazette, of hearse and prison-van, of waste-paper 
and dust-cart, of posters of revues that are mere 
vulgar aphrodisiacs, of creatures-that-once-were- 
men selling matches and bootlaces, of cats 
crossing the road, of milkmen that make a noise 



like some obscene fowl. It is the most infernal 
medley the world has ever seen. It is quite unlike 
the medley of a fair, which is a holiday from the 
month's quietness and which is after all for the 
most part idleness and a game. A fair is the 
concentration of a countryside, a gathering of the 
farms. It is as full of animals as a menagerie, and 
the men and women at it are as interesting as the 
animals. Some people find in the day-long conflict 
of town streets an even greater fascination. They 
see in the town a permanent fair, with juggler 
and clown and ballad-singer no longer in the 
market-place but in the music hall, with shops 
taking the place of booths, and with a thousand 
concerns scarred and printed on the faces of those 
who pass by such as the countryman never knows. 
Even so, the fascination of town is a fascination 
that exhausts. And the burden of money-making 
is on too many shoulders, the noise of money- 
making in too many ears. There is no leisure in 
this quest. It is all a songless procession of men 
and women who have forgotten the fields and have 
not yet found the city of God. 

One feels at times that one must escape from this 
procession at all costs, and fly back into the country. 
One feels (to change the image) that the harrows 
of the day's work have broken one sufficiently, and 
one would gladly lie fallow. And yet, when it 
conies to the point, there is not one man in a 
thousand who can acquire the perfect habit of 
idleness. Some men are so bound to the interests 
of townsmen that the holiday they prefer is a visit 
to strange cities. They hasten through art galleries 
and museums and churches and historic buildings 
between meal and meal. They follow the beaten 
track with enthusiasm, not for anything that it leads 
them to, but simply because it is the beaten track. 
They reckon up the spoils of the day by number 



and not for their beauty. Their greatest delight is 
to be a part of the crowd, to share its excitement, its 
movement, its flow of life. There are, I do not 
deny, persons who make holiday in cities, not as 
particles of a crowd, but as individuals. But these 
are exceptions, and as a rule are persons of some 
leisure who are not too closely penned in streets 
during the working months of the year. Even 
among those who choose the sea for a holiday there 
are few who are content with mere indolence. In- 
dolence to most of them means another hour in bed 
in the morning, and no man giving them orders 
during the day. If they were asked to be idler than 
that they would yawn their heads off before the 
evening of the first day. There must be a theatre, 
where they can book seats for Daredevil Dorothy. 
They would be unhappy without moving pictures, 
and a pier with a band playing, and winter-gardens, 
and tea-shops, and a dancing-hall. They eat a 
five-course dinner while the sun is setting, and 
while the twilight is changing the colours of the 
world they play auction-bridge in the hotel drawing- 
room. With them, too, a holiday consists principally 
in exchanging one crowd for another in mixing 
with a crowd that is spending money instead of 
with a crowd that is earning it. I do not pretend 
to be untouched myself by this love of crowds, 
especially of crowds that are spending money, and 
are, therefore, living not as they have to live, but 
as they desire to live. But I would not choose their 
company for a retreat into idleness. 

As a matter of fact, true idleness is scarcely 
possible for a rational being. One may try to 
achieve it by lying in bed all day, but even if one 
lies in bed till dinner-time one will be busying 
oneself about the sights of the streets at midnight, 
and exhibiting strange energy in cafe's and at coffee- 
stalls. Stevenson preached idleness to a less driven 

49 E 


world than ours, but he himself was not idle. On 
the contrary, with his reading-book in one pocket 
and his note-book in another, he now seems to us 
a character almost worthy of the pen of Samuel 
Smiles. The perfect idler would never be at the 
pains to write his apology. The Stevensons and 
the Thoreaus are merely humbugs when they pre- 
tend to be more indolent than shopkeepers. Even 
the laziest of us cannot go on a holiday without 
waking into some kind of activity a hundred times 
a day. We lie, sheltered from the wind, on a slope 
of heather above the sea, oblivious of the world and 
the world's war. A little boat appears below us 
with two men in it hauling in a brown net over the 
stern. We cannot help bestirring ourselves. We 
cannot help watching for the bulge in the net and 
the silver shape where a fish is entangled. We 
count every leap in the net as it is gathered into 
the boat. We take part in the energy of the fisher- 
men. We notice that one of them is wearing boots 
that are large and bright. We look again and see 
he is a village policeman. The men land at a boat- 
slip and haul their net on to the stone. They untie 
a thousand knots with infinite patience, and after 
each untying throw a fish to flap its tail on the 
ground. Then the policeman carefully takes hold 
of a long, lean, white-bellied dog-fish, and without 
mercy dashes its head against a rock and flings it 
back dead into the sea. A few knots later, he takes 
out a sea-urchin like a little pink hedgehog and 
holds it high up for us to look at. Our indolence 
has been broken in upon. We cannot be indifferent 
to such happenings. Next, we hear a chirrup like 
a cricket's a few yards behind us. We look round 
and see it is a bird fluttering from stone to stone. 
We wonder what bird it is whether it is a stone- 
chat. A long, bright green insect, a sort of beetle, 
with gold spots on its wings, flies among the grass- 



blades near us, and again arouses our inquisitiveness. 
We have not even the satisfaction of being able to 
give a name, though it be a wrong name, to him 
surely one of the lasting happinesses of life. We 
call him vaguely a green beetle, but we know that 
he will haunt us all our days until we are able to 
pin a more definite noun upon him. Another beetle 
passes along a footpath in the grass, mirroring 
green and blue in its ugly body. Everwhere the 
day is thronged with events. One cannot move a 
step without coming upon some peeping orchis, 
blue as a violet and tinier, or upon other larger 
orchises with blossoms curiously marked so that 
they seem to be standing about in cotton-print 
frocks. And if one looks from one flower to another 
one finds always a little an excitingly little change 
in the pattern. Heather has begun to bloom, and 
heath-bells ring on all sides as one walks, and the 
bog-myrtle is fragrant as one's foot presses on it. 
Scabious blue as the sea edges the cliff; the lesser 
celandine and shepherd's purses sprinkle the world 
with gold ; and yellow irises dance in the wind like 
Wordsworth's daffodils. Everywhere the bog-cotton 
rises with its three white plumes, sometimes nodding 
like the plumes in a warrior's helmet, sometimes 
waving like the pennons of a lance. It seems in 
the wind like some fairy host advancing with 
banners streaming. If one opens one's eyes at 
all there is no escape from the miracle of the 

And one is continually compelled to open one's 
eyes. No man on hearing a lark singing between 
two hills can help looking up to see where it flutters 
and dances on its wings. One gazes at it as the 
heart of all music, the expression of the world's 
happiness. Everywhere in field and farm one 
sees animals doomed to die violent deaths the 
servile brood of hens, sheep that move like a gang 


of slaves, geese with their necks stretched in a pre- 
tence of valour, black cattle that graze on the distant 
mountainside looking like little wooden figures 
out of a Noah's Ark, young turkeys with humped 
backs and plaintive cries, pigs that are jests in the 
flesh from their grunting snouts to their curled 
tails, calves that never smile even when they frisk 
like dervishes. But over them all dances the lark 
in the air, an optimist, a reconciler. And the 
world is well worth a song. Down the side of the 
mountain the sunlight flows like running water, 
chased by a shadow. Below lies the sea, variable 
in colours as a pigeon's neck repeating the crowded 
sky. Everywhere are hills blue hills in the dis- 
tance, purple hills after rain, scarred and shining 
green hills near at hand, rosy hills in the last light 
of the sun, brown hills in the twilight. Down from 
the sides of them at night red foxes scatter poultry 
fanciers. On the lonely beach a lonely seagull 
stands. The village of white cottages on the 
shoulder of the cliff huddles in the gathering dark- 
ness like a flock of sleepy birds. There will be 
no real darkness to-night, for a half-moon has 
climbed above the hill, making the white house at 
the bottom of the sloping field glimmer like a spirit. 
Under its benediction one goes upstairs to sleep. 
One is ready to sleep, for one has been exceedingly 
busy all day . . . doing nothing. 


Germany seems to be the only country in Europe 
at present in which the soldiers are as ferocious as 
the journalists. Perhaps this is because in Germany 
so many of the soldiers are journalists. So far 
as one can gather from the descriptions of the 
Christmas truce on the battlefield, the common 
German soldier, is, like the soldier of other nations, 
a human being who is much more inclined by 
nature to friendliness than to hatred. But the 
scribbling German soldier, or the scribbling Ger- 
man sailor who is almost always a general or 
an admiral is as excitably ferocious as anything 
you could find in Fleet Street. He is about on 
the level of the Nonconformist journalist who 
recently spoke with withering scorn of those of his 
fellow-Christians who still believed in praying for 
their enemies. This is, one may admit, the ancient 
logic of fighting. The pagan in each of us wishes 
to give his enemies hell, not only in this world, 
but in the next. When the tipsy Orangeman shouts 
"To Hell with the Pope!" he probably expresses 
with perfect accuracy his opinion of the punishment 
which he thinks the Pope deserves ; and I have 
heard a devout Catholic, at mention of Tom Paine, 
say with grim satisfaction : " He's sizzling in Hell 
now." If we can wish our enemies torture that 
will last through eternity, it seems rather absurd 
that we should be squeamish about causing them 
such pain and misery as we can during the brief 
interval of their habitation of the earth. 

Our ancestors certainly did not shrink from the 
logic of punishment as regards either this world 



or the next. The history of penal methods, whether 
in England, France, Spain, or China, is a history 
of ruthlessness which is at times so horrible as to 
seem almost ludicrous. Ruthlessness, it was usually 
assumed, was the only safe way of protecting 
society against its enemies. Ruthlessness, the 
Count von Reventlows seem to assume at the 
present moment, is the only safe way of protecting 
Germany against its enemies. It is not apparently 
a matter of revenge so much as of policy. They 
defend the burning of Louvain, the shooting of 
hostages, the bombardment of undefended towns, 
the torpedoing of merchant ships and sending of their 
crews to the bottom, not as glorious acts of national 
hatred, but as the only means of terrorising the 
Allies into submission. One would imagine that, 
if ruthlessness has been found. ineffective as a means 
of suppressing badly armed and badly equipped 
criminals, it must be found still more ineffective 
as a means of suppressing well-armed and well- 
equipped nations. And when the history of the 
present war comes to be written, I shall be sur- 
prised if even the German historians will not be 
found admitting that every act of inhumanity of 
which their army was guilty only resulted in adding 
to the number and strength of their enemies. 
There are Germans who point to the comparative 
peace and quiet which at present reign in Belgium 
as a proof of the wisdom of German policy. But 
no one will deny that a people may for a time be 
intimidated into silence by ruthlessness. What I 
do deny is that Germany is a step nearer victory as 
a result of her ruthlessness. The ruthlessness of 
Germany, we may be sure, did much to strengthen 
King Albert and his government in their determi- 
nation to hold out to the last minute in Antwerp 
and to allow neither themselves nor their stores, 
neither their docks nor their shipping, to fall into 



the hands of pitiless enemies. Germany, indeed, 
by her conduct in Belgium raised not only Belgium, 
but half the world, against her. There are thousands 
of Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Irishmen now being 
trained to fight against Germany who would still 
be sitting at home reading the newspapers if Ger- 
many had not forced herself on their imaginations 
as a big bully torturing a people smaller than 

Whether bullying ever pays or not is a question 
which it is not easy to answer. Clearly, there has 
always been a great deal of bullying in the relations 
between strong and weak peoples, as there has been 
in the relations between strong and weak men. The 
big Empire has not won its way to its present 
position by what is called brotherly love any more 
than the big landlord or the big manufacturer has. 
On the other hand, there is all the difference in the 
world between bullying within limits and bullying 
without mercy. The Roman Republic bullied its 
provinces without mercy; the Roman Empire by 
comparison bullied them within limits. The merci- 
less sort of bully ing has usually been done either in the 
name of religion or in the name of culture. Nearly 
all the great acts of mercilessness which stain the 
pages of history were interpreted in terms of some 
lofty purpose like that with which the German apolo- 
gists justify their creed of ruthlessness to-day. Alva 
felt no pangs of remorse for his cruelties in the 
Low Countries. On the contrary, he boasted that, 
apart from all the thousands he had slain in battle 
and massacred afterwards, he had delivered over 
18,000 people to the executioner. Almost certainly, 
at the time, he had no doubt that he was establish- 
ing Spanish and Catholic culture in the Low 
Countries for ever. But what remains of Spain 
and her conquering hosts in those parts now ? 
Nothing but a memory and a reviling. It would 



be straining language a little, however, to describe 
Alva's " Court of Blood " as a crime of culture. We 
find a much better example of the ruthlessness of 
culture in the scarcely less famous massacre of 
Glencoe. Here was a crime plotted by a statesman 
as civilized as the most civilized of Germans. The 
Master of Stair, as Macaulay says, was " one of the 
first men of his time, a jurist, a statesman, a fine 
scholar, an eloquent orator." He was good-natured, 
not disposed to cruelty, had " no personal reason 
to wish the Glencoe men any ill," and " there is 
not the slightest reason to believe that he gained 
a single pound Scots by the act which has covered 
his name with infamy." His aim in planning the most 
treacherous of crimes was neither personal greed nor 
personal glory. " His object," continues the historian, 
" was no less than a complete dissolution and re- 
construction of society in the Highlands. . . . 
This explanation may startle those who have not 
considered how large a proportion of the blackest 
crimes recorded in history is to be ascribed to ill- 
regulated public spirit. We daily see men do for 
their party, for their sect, for their country, for 
their favourite schemes of political and social 
reform, what they would not do to enrich or to 
avenge themselves. At a temptation directly ad- 
dressed to our private cupidity or to our private 
animosity, whatever virtue we have takes alarm. 
But virtue itself may contribute to the fall of him 
who imagines that it is in his power, by violating 
some general rule of morality, to confer an 
important benefit on a church, or a common- 
wealth, or mankind. He silences the remons- 
trances of conscience, and hardens his heart 
against the most touching spectacles of misery, 
by repeating to himself that his intentions are 
pure, that his objects are noble, that he is doing 
a little evil for the sake of a great good." 



Public spirit, therefore, is not only one of the most 
splendid virtues ; it may also be one of the most 
dangerous vices. It is a vice on the part of every 
man who does not realize that it is as easy to disgrace 
one's country or one's party as it is to disgrace 
oneself by certain forms of wickedness. The 
German theory of the State, however, is that it is 
something which, like the superman, is beyond good 
and evil. From this point of view, the State can do 
no wrong. It is capable of but one virtue power ; 
and of one sin feebleness. Those who admit 
this theory of the State obviously need not be dis- 
turbed even if one accuses them, in their public 
capacity, of all the crimes in the Newgate Calendar. 
As a matter of fact the Germans are seriously dis- 
turbed by some of the accusations that have been 
made against them. One day they preach ruthless- 
ness, and the next day they spend in proving that 
they have not been ruthless at all. They are scarcely 
more bent upon defying the laws of war than upon 
proving that they have all along scrupulously 
observed the laws of war. The truth is, their 
theory of the State is the invention of their heads, 
not of their consciences, and they find themselves 
compelled to salute virtue even as they advocate new 

One of the most interesting examples of a govern- 
ment's refusing to adopt a policy of ruthlessness has 
been resuscitated lately in more than one quarter. 
This was the refusal of the British Govern- 
ment during the Napoleonic Wars to adopt Lord 
Cochrane's " secret war plan " for the total destruc- 
tion of the enemy's fleet. The Government Com- 
mittee which considered the plan reported that it 
was effective, but recommended its rejection on the 
ground that it was inhuman. At the time of the 
Crimean War, Cochrane or, as he then was, Dun- 
donald revived his proposals, but again they were 



rejected. One wonders what they were. Were they 
really an anticipation of poison gas ? One would 
like to know what were the limits thus officially set 
to the ruthlessness of war. Certainly England has 
never been in want of advocates of ruthlessness. 
Mr. Norman Angell with whom one may agree or 
disagree on general grounds quotes several apt 
examples from British military writers in his book, 
Prussianism and its Destruction. Thus Major Stewart 
Murray, in The Future Peace of the Anglo-Saxons, 
which won the praise of Lord Roberts, derides " the 
sanctity of international law " as fiercely as any 
Prussian could, and inveighs against " sickening 
humanitarianism." Dr. Miller Maguire, again, is 
quoted as having written in the Times during the 
Boer War : " The proper strategy consists in the 
first place in inflicting as terrible blows as possible 
upon the enemy's army, and then in causing the in- 
habitants so much suffering that they must long 
for peace and force their Government to demand it. 
The people must be left with nothing but their eyes to 
weep with over the war." This last phrase, which I 
believe is taken from Tilly, has been quoted several 
times during the present war as Bismarck's, and has 
been condemned in accents of horror as an example 
of the atrocious Prussian theory of war. One knows 
very well that when Dr. Miller Maguire used it he 
did not mean to justify the horrors of Belgium or a 
slaughter of unarmed men and women at Scar- 
borough and Whitby. But if we admit that his 
sentiment is just, how can we logically protest 
against these outrages ? What are the limits of 
ruthlessness ? Where are we to draw the line ? It 
seems to me that the line is a rather vague one. I 
hold, however, that in waging war every nation must 
make up its mind to choose between the policy of 
" the less ruthlessness the better " and " the more 
ruthlessness the better"; and that deliberately to 



choose the latter is a crime against the human race. 
Spain of the Inquisition, Turkey of the Armenian 
atrocities these are supreme examples of ruthless- 
ness, and they are clear enough proof that ruthless- 
ness does not necessarily lead to national greatness. 
England in Elizabethan and Georgian Ireland is 
another instance of ruthlessness, and has not English 
policy in Ireland been her crowning failure ? Ruth- 
lessness, no doubt, has its victories no less renowned 
than mercy. But, on the whole, the history of 
ruthlessness is not a history of triumph, but a history 
of imbecility. 

Credulous rationalists used to believe that myths 
were largely the invention of priests. That belief has 
been slain by the anthropologists, who perceive 
that myths have grown up everywhere not as delib- 
erate impostures, but as the curly-headed children 
of good faith. Even the anthropoligists, however, 
are inclined to regard them as the perversities of 
people very unlike and inferior to ourselves, called 
savages. One writer on the subject speaks of " the 
very peculiar mental condition of the lower races," 
and quotes Max Miiller's question in regard to the 
primitive ages during which myths are invented : 
" Was there a period of temporary madness through 
which the human mind had to pass, and was it a 
madness identically the same in the south of India 
and the north of Iceland ? " We need only reflect 
for a moment on the myths already produced by the 
European war to corne to the conclusion either that 
the savage is not so mad as he looks or that we also 
are more than a little mad. Surely, it was out of 
" a very peculiar mental condition " that the myth 
of the 30,000 or 70,000 or 250,000 Russians who 
passed through England on their way to Belgium 
and France was born. And we may say the same 
of the myth of the Belgian children with their hands 
and feet cut off by Prussian soldiers, the myth of 
Lord Haldane's treachery, and half a dozen other 
myths of the moment, which are passionately believed 
in tens of thousands of British households. We 
know that in pious German homes myths of the 
same kind have taken the place of Grimm's Fairy 
Tales. I have no doubt that in France, in Russia, in 



Serbia, in Hungary and in Japan the war is produc- 
ing an equally remarkable folklore. Now this is not 
the work of priests or of people whom missionaries 
would describe as savages. It is not even except 
in the case of the Haldane myth the work of news- 
papers. It is for the most part simply the work of 
the popular imagination, which, far more fiercely 
than Nature, abhors a vacuum. Ever since the 
world began, the popular imagination has been busily 
pouring into one vacuum after another all manner of 
beautiful and terrible and absurd things. It works 
with the dreadful persistence of an insect giving its 
bowels to its task. It will not rest until it has filled 
the throne of the universe and replenished with 
strange details the lives of great men and has made 
every hollow in our knowledge of places and people 
and things a little hilly hive of buzzing and tumul- 
tuous fancies. It does not love untruth more than 
truth, but neither does it love truth more than un- 
truth. It makes use of every shade of both, as an 
artist uses his paints. Its aim is to convert life into 
a series of thrills, pictures, decorations and dramas 
instead of a mere formulated confession of ignorance. 
It is no more willing to say, " I don't know," than 
the traditional Irish peasant of whom you inquire 
the distance to some place or other about which he 
knows as little as he knows about Constantinople. 
Far from being agnostic, it is positive, creative even 
riotously so. It does not scribble " Why ? " all over 
the heavens and the earth as the men of science do. 
Rather, it populates the waters of the earth with 
sea-serpents, and the woods with dancing fairies, and 
the solitary house with its ghost, and the sky with 
the anger of God when it thunders and with the 
gentleness of God when the rainbow shines. Devils, 
goblins, griffins, unicorns, the sweet music of sirens, 
men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders, 
gods who married the daughters of men, scandal 



about Queen Elizabeth, giants, salamanders here 
are things of a more enticing and haunting interest 
than any imbecile "why." Here is not emptiness, 
but abundance abundance more wonderful and 
coloured than the abundance of a fruiterer's shop. 
Is it any wonder that few except the dull and the 
wise can resist the invitation to come and buy ? 

There is this difference to be noted, however, 
between the civilized man and the savage in regard 
to their myths. The civilized man is ever so much 
more eager than the savage to support his myths 
with evidence as if he were in a court of law. The 
savage is content to invent his myth : the civilized 
man is not happy until he has invented his evidence 
too. There was never a myth supported with such 
a mass of absolutely convincing evidence as the 
myth of the Russian troops in England. It was 
rare to meet a man in the street who had not a 
relative in some railway department concerned with 
passing the troops through, or who had not spoken 
to an engine-driver who had driven one of the trains 
that carried them from Aberdeen to Bristol, or whose 
most intimate friend had not taken a leading part in 
sending the transports to Archangel, or whose 
intimate general or colonel (whom Lord Kitchener 
could not possibly have any object in deceiving) had 
not confided to him the exact number of Russians on 
their way, or who had not seen them with his own 
eyes late at night in a little country station wearing 
huge beards and speaking a wild language which 
was neither French nor Yiddish, or whose friend in 
the Territorials, having promised to sign his name 
with two " t's " instead of one if on arriving in 
France he found the Russians there, had doubled 
the " t " on his first postcard home, or but one 
need not continue. One heard so many of these 
stories that one almost believed one had seen the 
Russians oneself. It is the same with the myth of 



the Belgian mutilations. It was impossible to meet 
anyone who did not know somebody or at the very 
least who did not know somebody who knew some- 
body who had seen the child with his or her own 
eyes. Every suburb of London, every town, every 
village, almost every vicarage, had its Belgian child 
sans hands, sans feet. One knew people who knew 
people who could vouch for it on the very best 
authority. The mutilated children had been sent in 
trainloads to Paris and in boatloads to England. 
To doubt a man's Belgian child soon became as 
serious a matter as to doubt his God. There are, I 
am sure, hundreds of men, and thousands of women, 
who would be willing to shed their blood for their 
faith in that Belgian child. At a recent meeting, 
where a well-known surgeon confessed his disbelief 
in such things, several of those present on the plat- 
form rose up and left the hall. To show anything 
except a blind unquestioning faith in the Belgian 
child was to be a pro-German of the most evil-minded 

Now the real sufferings of Belgium it would be 
almost impossible to exaggerate, and the story of 
those sufferings is an infinitely longer and more 
horrible story than the most long-winded or Sadistic 
version of the mutilated Belgian child. But 
apparently the public had to get into its mind some 
dramatic representation of all that horror, some re- 
presentation which would be an easy and stimulating 
substitute for the prolonged study of a hundred 
thousand scattered facts. The ubiquitous Belgian 
child gave the public what it wanted one of those 
favourite symbols in wartime when men like to 
picture themselves as the knights of God fighting 
against devils more atrocious than the Devil. But 
what puzzles one in the whole business is the way 
in which evidence in support of things which have 
not happened is invented among perfectly honest 



people. It is partly due to the fact that the majority 
even of honest people modify the nature of the 
evidence as they pass it on. One man passes some- 
thing on to a friend as a piece of hearsay; the 
second relates it as something which a friend of his 
actually witnessed ; the next man to hear the story 
makes it still more dramatic by declaring that he 
saw the thing himself. And even the third of these 
men may be, comparatively speaking, honest. He 
is frequently one of those persons subject to 
hallucinations who believe they have been present at 
what they have merely heard about, just as George 
IV. firmly believed that he had fought at the battle 
of Waterloo. 

In private life we are, as a rule, somewhat 
impatient of the hallucinated man. We find it 
simplest to call him a liar and leave it at that. It 
would be a most convenient arrangement if human 
beings could be divided into those who are liars and 
those who are not, but such a -division would be a 
classification for the sake of classification and would 
have small basis in reality. Whether we are liars 
or not depends largely on what we are talking about. 
When we are talking about something that excites 
us, we are more likely to invent than when we are 
talking about something which we can approach 
calmly. When a reader of the Jingo Press, for 
instance, is talking about alien enemies he finds it 
quite easy to invent the legend that the man with 
the German name who lives in the next street walks 
up and down his roof all night waving a red lantern 
to show the German airmen where to drop bombs. 
When not one person but a million persons simulta- 
neously invent a legend of this sort all over a country 
you soon get a myth which the ordinary man believes 
a good deal more fervently than he believes the 
miracles of the New Testament. The story of the 
German governess in whose rooms the bombs were 



found, which went the rounds in England in the 
early days of the war, is an excellent example of 
this kind of collective invention or hallucination. As 
for the Lord Haldane myth, it is of the same order, 
though it is fortunately not quite so popular, being in- 
deed what may be called a mere party myth. Still, the 
Lord Haldane who appears in it is a figure of the 
genuinely mythical order. One can imagine that in 
less prosaic days he would have appeared villainously 
in the forefront of many a popular ballad : 

" Childe Haldane stood at the War Office door, 
Stroking his milk-white steed." 

How many seemingly intelligent people there are 
who can even give you a detailed account of Childe 
Haldane's wickednesses ! Only the other day a man 
a voter, a taxpayer, and, possibly, a father declared 
that he had personal knowledge of the fact that just 
before the war broke out Lord Haldane had written 
a private letter to all the officers in command of the 
different English naval ports telling them to cross 
over to Germany where they would have, of course, 
been interned. The myth-maker does not trouble 
to enquire even whether Lord Haldane is at the 
War Office or at the Admiralty or at neither. All 
he wants is a good whacking myth and before long 
his sleep becomes full of pleasant dreams of Lord 
Haldane's head on a pole as one of the new attrac- 
tions of the Tower. Lord Haldane is only one of a 
score of people, indeed, whom the more unbalanced 
section of the public has condemned to the Tower 
since the present war began. He may be amused to 
recall that in the course of an anti-German agitation 
sixty years ago the public with equally acute im- 
aginativeness committed Queen Victoria and Prince 
Albert to the same prison. In a letter from Windsor 
Castle on January 24th, 1854, Prince Albert wrote : 

65 F 


" You will scarcely credit that my being committed 
to the Tower was believed all over the country, nay, 
even that the Queen had been arrested ! People 
surrounded the Tower in thousands to see us 
brought to it ! Victoria has taken the whole affair 
greatly to heart, and was excessively indignant at 
the attacks." 

But it is very little use being indignant with a myth. 
Indignation has as little effect on a myth as on a 
bad egg. 

I began by suggesting that myths were attempts on 
the part of the popular imagination to fill some vacuum 
or other. Surely the reason why the myths of the 
present war have been so much more on the grand 
scale and so much longer-lived than has been the 
rule in recent wars is that the conditions of Press 
censorship leave us with a world as void of news as 
any primitive jungle. We have not had news com- 
mensurate with the grandeur of the business on 
which the world is engaged and so we have had to 
invent the story of the war which our accredited 
representatives, the newspaper correspondents, are 
not allowed to see. It is as if the Press Censor had 
surrounded the area of the war with a high wall of 
paper on which no hand had written and had said 
to us : " Let each man write on it what he will." 
That is why we have been so strenously scribbling 
all over those immense blank spaces like a child left 
alone with a lead pencil in a white-walled room. 
There we have written our epics of ghostly armies 
and inscribed our ballads of mutilated children and 
published to the world the story of the life and 
death of many a noble traitor. It will be interest- 
ing to see, when the war is over, how many of these 
scrawlings of the human imagination will survive. 
Even with a censored Press, it seems to me, the 
myth has little chance of survival as soon as it gets 



into the papers. Already the visionary army has 
melted into air into thin air. The Belgian child is 
slowly melting. Even Lord Haldane is melting. 
The myths of savages grow with a certain gigantic 
slowness and they enjoy long lives like forest trees 
and tortoises, but the myths of civilised man last no 
longer than garden flowers, or grass, or cheese, or 
the daily paper. 



There is nothing which has been proved more 
clearly by the present war, if indeed it needed proving, 
than that civilization does not make for the decline 
of courage. The stories which are being brought in 
from the battlefields contain a superfluity of evidence 
that man is fighting as bravely in the twentieth 
century as he fought on the windy plain of Troy 
or at Marathon near the sea. It has often been the 
custom to regard courage as a peculiarly pagan 
virtue, easily undermined by Christianity, culture, 
and civilization. The Goths, when they overran 
Greece, deliberately abstained from setting fire to 
the libraries owing to the fact that I quote Florio's 
Montaigne " one among them scattered this opinion, 
that such trash of books and papers must be left 
untoucht and whole for their enemies as the only 
meane and proper instrument to divert them from 
all militarie exercises, and ammuse them to idle, 
secure, and sedentarie occupations." We know 
better than this now, and soldiers no longer defeat 
their enemies by leaving them their libraries. They 
do not even burn their own. The Germans are, 
compared to any other European army, an army of 
bookworms ; yet the record of their bloody race 
across France is, in sheer warlike boldness, as 
amazing as anything in history. 

It is the custom of most peoples to abuse their 
enemies and, especially in war time, to sneer at them 
as a mob of cowards. I heard a lady at a recruiting 
meeting the other day assuring her hearers in the 
traditional manner that the Germans were cowards 
to a man. It is a poor compliment to the armies of 



the Allies to suggest that a host of cowards was able 
to bear them back so long and so far. But the taunt 
is hardly worth mentioning except in so far as it re- 
minds one that to denounce a man or a nation for 
cowardice is almost universally regarded as the 
supreme insult you can offer. Certainly one would 
rather be almost anything than a coward. Most 
people, I fancy, would prefer to be liars or wife- 
beaters or plunderers of the poor. One of the earliest 
fears of every boy who is not born, like Nelson, with 
the genius of fearlessness is that he may deserve the 
reproach of looking afraid. " Fear ! grandmama " 
so, the schoolboy learns, Nelson spoke as a child 
" I never saw fear. What is it ?" One learns in 
later life of Nelson's vanity, his treachery, his narrow 
and tyrannical ignorance in public affairs ; but one 
never loses that first enthusiasm for his deathless 
courage. One finds a new hero in Mucius Scaevola 
as soon as one begins to learn Roman history. 
Rousseau tells us that, when as a boy he heard the 
story of Mucius Scaevola for the first time at table, 
his family " were terrified at seeing me start from 
my seat and hold my hand over a hot chafing-dish, 
to represent more forcibly the action of that deter- 
mined Roman." I, too, long before I had ever 
heard the name of Rousseau, was eager to thrust 
my right hand into the blaze and so add another to 
the line of the heroes. A certain realism, however, 
always finally prevented me from putting myself too 
closely to the test, and the swift passage of a finger 
through the gas-flame was the nearest I ever got to 
Roman virtue. That one should feel like this at all, 
however, is suggestive of the instinct that is in all of 
us continually to challenge our bravery. In time of 
war many men enlist simply because they cannot 
endure any longer to leave that challenge unanswered. 
Goethe, we are told, no sooner felt afraid to do a 
thing than he did it. If he felt timid of climbing to 



the top of a high tower he immediately climbed up 
and became master of himself. Some men have the 
good fortune to be born with this mastery, but they 
must be comparatively few. A famous general 
was it Havelock ? said that in every regiment there 
were ten per cent, heroes, ten per cent, cowards, 
and eighty per cent, men who were a mixture of 
hero and coward. There is more of David Balfour 
than of Alan Breck in most of us. We hesitate 
before we jump, and we earn our courage in the sweat 
of our brows. We have long since given up the 
aspiration to be Nelsons. We sympathize far more 
intimately with the ancient soldier who, on finding 
his limbs begin to shake as he went into battle, 
addressed them with grim humour : " You would 
tremble much worse than that, my friends, if you 
knew what I am going to put you through be- 
fore I am done with you;" and with the other 
soldier who, on being jeered at for his pallor and 
nervousness, replied to his tormentor : " If you were 
half as afraid as I am, you would have run away." 

That, as a rule, is the courage not of men trained 
to danger, but of beginners. I have heard an artist 
who accompanied the Japanese troops in the Russo- 
Japanese war say that, on his first going under fire, 
he was so frightened that he bit through the mouth- 
piece of his pipe. He was regarded, he added, as a 
highly comic figure by the Japanese on account of 
his fears. It would obviously be impossible for 
soldiers to go on suffering from nervousness like this. 
They soon get hardened to the peril of war : it is 
not long before they cease to duck at the passage of 
bullets. A sergeant in the Royal Engineers described 
the other day how the British troops rushed into 
battle at one point singing and shouting : " Early 
doors this way ; early doors, gd." That is an illus- 
tration of the contempt for danger that soldiers, if 
they are well led, learn. One finds a still more ex- 



cellent example of the contempt for danger in a story 
in the Daily Telegraph about the crew of an English 
submarine which was fired at by the Germans while 
she was scouting : 

" As she came to the surface her conning-tower 
was fired at. She submerged herself, and rested on 
the bottom. After four hours, the atmosphere having 
become somewhat thick, she came up for air. 

" Her conning-tower was again a mark for the 
enemy, and one shot went through. Hastily 
plugging the hole, she was again submerged, 
waiting at the bottom until it was dark, when she 
came up and escaped. 

"The young officer in command, in making his 
report, was asked what they did while on the mud. 
' I did fine,' he replied ; ' we played auction bridge 
all the time, and I made 45. nid.' " 

There you have courage as in the legends, as 
thrilling in its own way as that of Scsevola. We 
may laugh at such schoolboy's courage, peacock 
courage, but how magnificently enviable ! 

So magnificent and enviable a gift is courage that 
it seems at times to be the indispensable virtue. 
Courage is the sword and the staff of virtue; 
without it virtue goes about unarmed. On the 
other hand, to bow down and worship courage, as 
we are sometimes inclined to do, is mere idolatery. 
It is almost as great a mistake, though not so foolish, 
as to sneer at courage as want of imagination. 
Courage, like a fine sword, may be in a noble or an 
ignoble hand. There was a leading article in a 
London newspaper the other day which asserted 
that courage could only be shown in a just cause, 
and that the difference between courage and ferocity 
might be seen in the comparison between the con- 
duct of the Allies and of the Germans in the present 



war. This is nonsense and confusion. The charge 
of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, which 
had certainly little to do with justice, was as memor- 
able an act of courage as the stand of Leonidas and 
his men in the pass of Thermopylae. Alcibiades, 
the exquisite traitor, was as famous for his courage 
as Garibaldi. Coriolanus made war against his city 
with as marvellous a heroism as he had shown in 
its behalf. Courage has been shown on the scaffold 
by murderers no less than by martyrs. Mr. Shaw 
once shocked the readers of a paper called V.C. by 
contributing to a symposium on " The Bravest Deed 
I Ever Knew " the opinion that Czogolz, who had 
just assassinated President McKinley, had shown the 
qualities that go to the winning of the Victoria Cross 
in a more conspicuous manner than anyone else he 
could think of. Indifference to death, the courage 
to face the fury of a mob alone, absolute self-sacrifice 
one dismisses these as callousness in a fearless man 
of whose action one does not approve. One might 
as well, however, deny beauty to a woman whose 
morals one dislikes as courage to a man whose 
morals one dislikes. Every woman is the better for 
being beautiful, and every man is the better for 
being brave. But there are other gifts of wisdom, 
affection, and truthfulness, without which beauty 
and courage are the mere graces of animals. Wise 
courage, which at times seems to partake of timidity, 
is a far rarer thing than rash courage. This is the 
courage of the great statesman and the great soldier. 
It is the courage which often avoids the battle, the 
courage which knows how to retreat. Pericles had 
this kind of courage. " In his military conduct," 
says Plutarch, " he gained a great reputation for 
wariness ; he would not by his good-will engage in 
any fight which had much uncertainty or hazard ; 
he did not envy the glory of generals whose rash 
adventures fortune favoured with brilliant success 

7 2 


however they were admired by others ; nor did he 
think them worthy his imitation, but always used 
to say to his citizens that, so far as lay in his 
power, they should continue immortal, and live for 
ever." The most courageous action in his career, 
perhaps, was his refusal to go out and fight the 
Spartans when they invaded and pillaged the Athenian 
territory, and pitched their camp challengingly out- 
side the city. " Many made songs and lampoons 
upon him," we are told, " which were sung about 
the town to his disgrace, reproaching him with the 
cowardly exercise of his office of general, and the 
tame abandonment of everything to the enemy's 

The history of war is a record of heroic re- 
treats no less than of heroic charges. We have 
seen lately in the retreat of Joffre and French a 
wonderful feat of heroism of this order. For ten 
generals who have the courage to advance there is 
hardly one who has the courage or the cleverness to 
run away. 



I doubt if there is any belief more indestructible 
than the belief in the ultimate triumph of justice. 
It requires a cold-blooded philosopher to question it. 
The world has seen Poland dismembered, Socrates 
compelled to drink poison, and St. Peter crucified 
upside down. But these things are Devil's triumphs 
of a moment. Poland still lives as a faith, and 
Socrates as an example, and St. Peter survives in the 
stones of churches over five continents. While in- 
justice seems to reign, we may believe that justice is 
in the tomb, but we also believe that it awaits a 
glorious resurrection. No Irishman has ever been 
finally disheartened by the fact that his country has 
been in subjection for seven hundred years ; he would 
believe in inevitable victory even though it were to 
remain subject for yet another seven centuries. This 
faith in a different scheme of things from the scheme 
which is mapped in Whitaker's Almanack is a world- 
wide phenomenon. Each of us, in so far as we do 
not live for self-interest, is a predestinate soldier in 
ghostly legions : we march towards the morrow 
under banners announcing that justice we must have 
though the heavens fall. It is as though we claimed 
citizenship in two worlds at once the visible world 
of the seven sins and the invisible world of the one 
righteousness which men variously call love, and 
truth, and justice. Not only this, but it is our 
instinct continually to call in the invisible world to 
redress the balance of the visible. We tell ourselves 
that the just man has fighting on his side unseen 
companies the apostolic cloud of witnesses. We 
endow him in our imaginations with miraculous 



gifts, like the old Greek heroes to whom gods lent 
their aid in battle. We interpret the Biblical cry of 
triumph, " By the help of my God I have leaped 
over a wall," as the shout of a just man who has 
performed a wonder. Not we, perhaps, but at least 
our ancestors once did. And the prophecy that 
" one man shall chase a thousand " must have 
brought rejoicing to generations of Puritans, each of 
whom saw himself as the just man in pursuit of a 
multitude of naughty neighbours. The Christian 
imagination is tamer than the Hebrew, but it, too, 
trebles and decuples the powers of the righteous 
man. "Thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel 
just " has passed into a proverb ; and has not a quite 
modern poet sung : 

" My strength is as the strength of ten 
Because my heart is pure ? " 

We may well inquire what basis there is in fact for 
this heavenly arithmetic. 

Napoleon did not quite believe in it. He even 
accused God of always being on the side of the big 
battalions. Wellington, too, said that he had heard 
people talk about a good general being able to defeat 
an enemy many times more numerous than himself, 
but that he had never seen it done. In 1870 the 
Germans defeated the French by consistently out- 
numbering them on the day of battle. They were 
187,000 to 113,000 at Gravelotte; 155,000 to 90,000 
at Sedan. "Therefore," says Captain H. M. John- 
stone, discussing these facts in a recent book, The 
Foundations of Strategy, " it is the duty of Govern- 
ments to enable their generals to meet 100,000 with 
200,000, if this be in any way possible ; and thereafter 
of the general to do his best to surprise the 100,000. 
For war is no idle game, and this branch of the 
etiquette of sport does not apply." Certainly, neither 
the courage nor the just cause of the three hundred 



at Thermopylae helped them a whit more than did 
the ritualistic combing of their long hair when the 
Persian hordes came upon them, flogged into battle 
by their captains with long whips. If the Greeks 
had better fortune at Marathon, has not a German 
professor explained this by estimating that the army 
of Darius, instead of numbering 5,100,000, as Hero- 
dotus believed, did not contain more than 15,000 
warriors, or a great deal fewer than the conquering 
Greeks ? The same authority refuses to believe that 
William the Conqueror landed in England with a 
smaller force than Harold could bring against him. 
Harold, he estimates, had an army of about 4,000 
instead of the 400,000 or 1,200,000 which have been 
freely attributed to him ; and to meet this William 
was able to bring 6,000 or 7,000 men many times 
fewer, by the way, than the old estimate of 32,000 or 
60,000. Even if we admit the exceeding importance 
of numbers, however, the fact remains that they are 
not the final secret in warfare. " In war," said 
Napoleon, the prophet of the big battalions, " the 
moral is to the physical as three to one " ; and, 
though the moral includes discipline and all manner 
of things, one cannot overlook the importance of the 
soldiers' belief in the justice of their cause. We are 
constantly told that the good soldier has no politics, 
and, as regards party politics, this is true enough. 
At the same time, soldiers, like other people, must 
have their opinions on the causes of wars, and they 
will not enter with the same heart into a war which 
they believe to be unjust as into a just war. In the 
present war we see each side taking infinite pains to 
convince itself of the justice of the cause for which 
it is fighting. 

Each of the nations engaged makes desperate 
attempts to manoeuvre its opponents into a position 
of manifest injustice. Mr. Lloyd George arraigns 
Germany and Austria as raiders of the little nations. 


The Germans denounce England as the engineers 
of a wicked plot to overwhelm German culture with 
the aid of European and Asiatic barbarism. Each 
country proclaims loudly that it is carrying on a war 
in defence of the rights of the weak against the 
strong. Each regards the case for the war put for- 
ward by the other side as lying and hypocritical. 
Call it hypocrisy or not, it springs from an old 
instinct which tells us that we must have justice on 
our side or we shall perish. Even Bernhardi, 
though he denies the existence of justice as between 
State and State, commends his creed of war to the 
moralist by the plea that all things are just in the 
furtherance of the interests of one's own State. It 
is a heathen doctrine. It is the transformation of 
the old tribal god into a new tribal ethic. According 
to this theory, every war is a just war in which you 
are victorious. The saying " My country, right or 
wrong," loses its meaning, for by hypothesis one's 
country is always right. One speculates as to the 
bewilderment a man like Bernhardi must feel when 
he reads how Chatham rejoiced to hear of the 
defeat of his countrymen in the American War. I 
may admit in confidence that I am sometimes 
puzzled what to think about it myself. For a man 
to be so eager for the triumph of justice that he 
would willingly see his country defeated to bring it 
about is a height of virtue which is almost inhuman. 
And yet men will sacrifice themselves and their 
children for justice, and no one will be surprised. 
Why, then, should we be astonished if a great man 
desires to see his country fall in the cause of a juster 
world ? 

The truth is, most of us are of two minds. We 
vacillate helplessly between the supreme claims of 
justice and the claims of our country, and, when 
they conflict, we are almost always of the Bernhardi 
party and take sides with the State. We say that 



right is might, but we do not believe it to the point 
of being willing to face an army almost single- 
handed, like Horatius Codes, in the assurance of 
the justice of our cause. Yet every martyr believes 
this. He does not believe that right will necessarily 
bring him any personal victory ; but he realizes that 
defeat in a just cause may often mean victory for 
the cause. It was so with John Brown. John 
Brown never fought half so well for the slaves as 
John Brown's body did. It is with spiritual, not 
with physical, power that the just man is thrice 
armed ; but the spiritual has a way of drawing the 
physical after it, as in the case of Joan of Arc. 
There you have the case of a nervous girl in her 
teens leading strong men to do what no general of 
her time could make them do. She was worth to 
them more than a thousand thousand spears. She 
held up before them the divine justice of their cause 
as miraculously attractive as the brazen serpent. 
That is the difference between courage in a just 
cause and courage that has no righteous passion at 
the back of it. This we may admire ; that we must 
emulate. There has seldom been more desperate 
courage shown than by the so-called anarchists of 
Sydney Street ; but they do not raise up new genera- 
tions of men to follow them to their graves. They 
have their appeal, no doubt, and the hushed readers 
of penny dreadfuls will always have a warm corner 
in their hearts for them. But it is only the courage 
of just men that raises up heirs to itself. Washington 
may have personally been no more fearless than 
Jack the Ripper, but the courage of Washington 
made a nation, while the courage of Jack the Ripper 
was turned into ineffectual vileness. We may be 
sure that Muggleton, the mad tailor who went booz- 
ing round the publichouses in the time of Charles 
II. and threatening damnation against all who 
refused to believe that the sun was four miles from 



the earth and that God was six feet high, was as 
ready to die for his faith as any of the Protestant 
martyrs of Smithfield. But it is no use being brave 
for foolishness. Bravery like this is as barren as a 
mule. We cannot but admire the heroes of fana- 
ticism, but is only when their fanaticism is likened 
to some kind of righteousness that it makes any 
practical impression on us. Thus it is righteousness, 
justice, rather than courage, which finally appeals to 
us. It is justice more even than courage that is the 
soldier's grand ally. With courage, he may perish ; 
but with justice his cause cannot perish. " Thou 
hast left behind," exclaimed Wordsworth, addressing 
Toussaint 1'Ouverture, 

" Powers that will work for thee, air, earth and 


There's not a breathing of the common wind 
That will forget thee ; thou hast great allies, j 
Thy friends are exaltations, agonies, 
And love, and man's unconquerable mind." 

That is the most we can say of any just man. We 
know that he will help to bring back the world's 
great age, but we know that, however just he may 
be, his banners may fall a thousand times in battle 
before the golden years return. Faith in the justice 
of his cause, however, will make him rise and go on 
fighting again as he could fight neither for glory nor 
for his stomach's sake. " Travaillez, travaillez ! et 
Dieu travaillera ! " was a saying that Joan of Arc 
loved. It expresses the unyielding faith of the 
soldiers in just causes in all ages. 



There is a fruit-shop in Piccadilly in the window 
of which little baskets of strawberries invite you to 
buy them for twelve-and-sixpence. If you count the 
strawberries, you will find there are about twenty-one 
in a twelve-and-sixpenny basket. Strawberries, in 
other words, after the death duties, after the land 
tax, after the super-tax, after the doubling of the 
income-tax, and during the greatest and costliest 
war in history, are being sold in London at between 
sevenpence and eightpence apiece. It seems an 
amazing thing, quite apart from the circumstances 
of the moment, that anyone should be willing to pay 
sevenpence not to say eightpence for a strawberry. 
Is the strawberry of April so much more fragrant 
than the strawberry of June ? I doubt it. It is not 
the charm of savour, it is the luxurious charm of 
rarity, which makes people ready to pay the price of 
a poor man's dinner for an April strawberry. It 
seems to be in our natures to love what is rare more 
than what is beautiful. We like things because 
other people do not possess them. Who would be 
fascinated by diamonds if the cliffs were made of 
them ? It is not the eye of the artist but the eye of 
the merchant which distinguishes the true diamond 
from the false. Let us only believe a thing is rare, 
and we take its beauty for granted. Publishers play 
upon this weakness when they issue costly books in 
editions consisting of a few score copies and pledge 
themselves to distribute the type immediately after- 
wards, so that the precious volumes can never become 
everybody's possession. It seems almost a sin against 
society to limit the production of beautiful things in 



this way. On the other hand, if everybody could 
buy them, nobody might buy them ; and it is better 
to have beautiful books published in small numbers 
than not at all. Nor is the passion for what is rare 
an entirely vulgar passion. It preys upon artists as 
well as upon the bosoms of the rich. Rare things, 
strange things, precious things have a sensational 
importance which appeals to such born lovers of 
sensations. Great artists fight their way through 
this passion for sensations to the more austere passion 
for truth ; but the minor artists frequently pitch 
their tents among the sensations as though this were 
the end of the world. It would be difficult, perhaps, 
for even a minor poet to sound the lyrical cry over 
a sevenpenny strawberry or a twenty-five shilling 
bundle of asparagus. But that is because the rarity 
which is expressed by sevenpence or twenty-five 
shillings is not sufficient to produce the necessary 
ecstasy even in a poet on a country newspaper. 
Suppose, however, the strawberry had cost a slave's 
life. Suppose the asparagus had been gathered by 
kings' daughters on the banks of an Eastern river 
asparagus, I feel sure, does not grow in conditions of 
the kind at all and were sold to none but kings and 
the friends of kings. Straightway the strawberry 
and the asparagus would take on a new value. They 
would become, from the sensational point of view, 
beautiful things. They would become themes for a 
Gautier or a Flaubert. Did not the most artistic of 
emperors, Nero, spend 30,000 on roses from Alex- 
andria for a single banquet ? Probably in this 
twentieth century you can buy roses as beautiful for 
a penny at Charing Cross. None of us is thrilled 
nowadays by the thought of grapes in January : they 
are too common. But a dish of ripe grapes in January 
was the most wonderful thing the mediaeval Duchess 
could think of when Dr. Faustus put his magic at 
her service. 

81 G 


It would be possible to explain this passion for 
rare and strange things as something born of a 
winged imagination. It is a desire to escape from 
the common round. It is a protest against everyday. 
It is the choice of wine above water. Whether it is 
an excellent thing to pass one's life thus in exquisite 
quarrels with commonness is another matter. The 
imaginative life turns as easily to perversity as to 
glory. Imagination which is content with conquests 
of out-of-season strawberries will have no energy for 
flights where the morning stars sing together. The 
love of luxury is imagination with sleepy wings. 
Good poets have always had to protest against it, 
even to the point of praising beans. To desire diffi- 
cult fruits too greedily seems in a measure to be a 
disparagement of life and the four seasons. Petronius 
describes a banquet infinitely more sumptuous than 
Plato's ; but it is an insult to day and night. Even 
a drunkard on principle will shrink from the vul- 
garity of the parvenu who has wine instead of water 
poured on the hands of his guests. That is luxury 
turned to folly. It is quite unlike the luxury of a 
man who squanders his fortune on wines of delicate 
flavour. The latter is at least in love with a real 
thing : the former only with display. If Beaujolais 
were dearer than Chambertin, then the parvenu 
would drink Beaujolais. To him there is no differ- 
ence between them except in boasting. Clearly it is 
impossible to enjoy luxury of this kind and life at 
the same time. The luxurious man pleases himself 
with the thought that he possesses what other people 
lack : in reality, he lacks what other people possess. 
Everything that happens in the ordinary course of 
nature is to him not a treasure, but a banality. He 
despises everything that is not purchasable daffodils 
in March, and larks in an April sky, and the sun that 
rises and sets every day. He admires the beauties 
of Nature only if he has paid a large fare to reach 



them. He can admire the sun shining at midnight 
in Norway, or the snowy towers of mountains seen 
from the grounds of the most expensive hotel in 
Switzerland. . . . How one loves to rail at him ! 
One feels as gay as a Pharisee among one's own 
frugal pleasures as one contemplates his million's 
worth of misery. One walks out over the little hills 
of this happy world as it goes swishing through 
space, and one boasts in one's heart that here for an 
instant one is lord of glistening growing things and 
a roof of music that one would not give in exchange 
for many sevenpenny strawberries no, nor for thirty 
thousand pounds' worth of Egyptian roses. The 
luxuries of the earth are for the most part to be had 
without money and without price. Nature is gor- 
geous with them the swan on the water brooding 
on its windy shadow, the round eyes of robins, the 
rooks that walk (absurd breeched creatures) among 
the long-haired sheep in the park, the argument of 
running water, of running children, the silver and 
gold of stars, the brief life of the almond blossom, 
the foolish nine-parts-naked man who plunges with 
grey head and crimson pants into the cold morning 
water, the willow that weeps above him, the black- 
bird that sings in the poplar beside the willow, the 
cloud that passes like a song, the hide-and-seek of 
squirrels is it any wonder if the little hills clap 
their hands? 

Children alone seem to be in full possession of the 
luxuries of the earth. To the child, the fact that a 
thing has happened before is no reason why it should 
not happen again, and happen beautifully: every- 
thing is exciting even at the fiftieth repetition. In 
moments of fear and pain the world may be full of 
horrible things, but it is never full of dull things. 
Mr. Chesterton has noticed the child's appetite for 
reality, and has been led by it to conclude that the 
child is the only sincere realist. The child does not 



weary of details as the rest of us do : it cannot have 
enough of them. If it wishes to hear about a rail- 
way journey, it wants everything from the beginning. 
The fact that you drove to the station in a green 
taxicab is to it full of romance. It would like to 
know the name of the porter who took your luggage. 
Every animal, every tree, every flower that you saw 
from the train is greedily visioned. What you had 
to eat and drink must not be left out. Does not a 
child get pleasure even from counting the stairs be- 
tween one landing and another ? How could bore- 
dom ever enter a house in which the staircase is 
a ladder of wonder? If you go into Kensington 
Gardens, you will see on all sides this childish 
appreciation of the luxurious world. To most of us 
there is nothing duller on the earth than those 
cylindrical tins in which coffee, Cerebos salt, and 
other groceries are sold. But give one of these tins 
to a seven-year-old child and he will set it afloat on 
the Round Pond, and he and his friends on the bank 
will steer it by throwing pebbles in the water round 
it all day long. Out of two tiny bits of wood and a 
sheet of paper a boat is made which is as thrilling 
to the imagination as the Queen Elizabeth. The drake 
that bobs his curly tail in the air while he drowns his 
coloured neck in the ruffled waves is a beautiful 
thing, but the ramshackle boat and the coffee tin do 
not yield to him in beauty. Near by, on the grass, 
a boy drags after him by a string a small and dirty 
cricket bat bound flat to the wheels of a broken toy. 
Apparently it is intended to represent a cannon, and 
the boy's friend pursues it with a fierce artillery of 
stones. As one watches poor children round the pond 
making their pleasure out of refuse and broken things, 
one is inclined at moments to wonder whether this 
happiness of invention, this self-reliant mastery of 
one's little world, may not be a greater possession 
than the nursed and taught amusements of richer 



infants. One would imagine that a child that has 
to look after itself, to say nothing of its sisters and 
brothers, from the age of five would grow up more 
powerful and resourceful and leader-like in character 
than a child pampered and nursed and school- 
mastered from the cradle. But clearly this is not 
so. This happiness with anything and everything 
is one of the compensations of the poor : it is not 
enough in itself to make poverty a blessing. The 
empty stomach, the foul air of the narrow street, the 
torn boot, the tattered shirt, the earsplitting school- 
room these quickly tame the spirit that otherwise 
might have become too regal amid its treasures. 
These, and the need to serve the need to serve 
moreover, in a manner and in a degree in which no 
human being ought to have to serve in order to be 
permitted to eat at a table and sleep in a bed 
that would make most of us ill. Gradually in such 
a world a coffee tin ceases to be more than a coffee 
tin, and the stairs become a burden. It is so, of 
course, with all of us. But those of us who live 
above the poverty-line have other sources of luxury 
to take the place of pretence and toys. Not many, 
perhaps, if we lose entirely the spirit of the child, 
but enough to enable us at the very lowest to flit 
from one tedious place to another, and to have some 
novelty of choice among tedious dishes. I do not, 
I may say, myself find the world so dismal a round 
as this, and for my friends I desire some middle 
place between the extremes of tedium and penury. 
But if one had to choose between tedium and penury 
who knows ? On the whole, I lean to the seven- 
penny strawberry rather than to the empty coffee 
tin now that I have left the age of magic behind. 


To save money is now the eleventh command- 
ment. It is a commandment which many people 
will find it extremely difficult, and many others 
extremely easy, to obey. Some men are pre- 
destined to save money. It is no more a virtue with 
them than a bad digestion. They would save money 
on an income of a hundred pounds. Other men are 
predestined to spend money. It is no more a virtue 
with them than if they were to weigh fifteen stone. 
They could not save on an income of ten thousand a 
year. These are two races of men which will never 
entirely understand one another. The thrifty man 
will seem to his opposite a skinflint rather than a 
saviour of the State. The spendthrift, on the other 
hand, will not always be taken at his own valuation 
as a heart of corn and a generous fellow. He is the 
butt of the proverbs. The wisdom of humanity is 
against him. " A fool and his money," say the old 
wives, " are soon parted." " A penny saved is a 
penny earned," they add. " Take care of the pence," 
they develop the theme, " and the pounds will take 
care of themselves." The copybooks contain noth- 
ing so effective to warn the young against growing 
up miserly. It is only on Sundays that we are 
advised to take no thought for the morrow, and even 
then the text is rolled out for love of the sound 
rather than the sense. We seldom meet anyone 
above a schoolboy who interprets it literally. I 
have never known but one person who recommended 
it on the score of practical morals. This was when 
as a small boy I had more by luck than by judgment 
won a prize of a few pounds fifteen or twenty, if I 



am not mistaken but at least it was too large to be 
laid out with a good conscience on butterscotch, 
nougat, and cheap editions of the Waverley Novels. 
There was a theory that it should be put in the 
bank; but a charming lady in gold-rimmed spectacles 
and a lace cap, with her silver hair curled round 
little tortoiseshell combs on each side of her head, per- 
suaded me secretly against this, alleging as a reason 
that to put money in a bank was to distrust God 
Almighty. Dr. Johnson, she declared, naming a 
clergyman much respected in the neighbourhood, 
had been vehemently of this opinion and had never 
put a penny in the bank in his life. I took Dr. 
Johnson in this matter alas, in this matter only ! 
as my model, and no child can ever have paid so 
many visits to the confectioner's under the segis of 
the New Testament. But it is as rare as a happy 
farmer to find the old exhorting the young to live 
dangerously in the matter of money. Even those 
who talk the most eloquently about living dan- 
gerously make haste to secure themselves against 
the perils of pennilessness. It is only the saints and 
the fools who live dangerously to the point of being 
ready to give away all their goods to the poor or 
anybody else who happens to be convenient. At the 
same time it is a remarkable fact that in the New 
Testament it is not the rich who waste their money 
that are attacked, but the rich who save it. Saving 
money is a virtue which has very little said in its 
favour in the source-books of Christianity. The 
man with the single talent is the type of the man 
who saves for saving's sake. I do not mean to 
suggest that the two other men in the parable of 
the talents were wastrels. But they were types of 
what may be called constructive saving. They did 
not save for saving's sake. They were not terrified 
of using money. They may have put it in a bank 
or invested it. They did not, at least, put it in an 



old stocking. They saved generously and not 
meanly. The other fellow was simply the mean 
man who takes no risks. To save money without 
being mean that is the difficulty which to many 
young and fiery natures seems almost insuperable. 

Certainly it is difficult to idealize a niggard or a 
miser. There are more people who can look 
tolerantly on the younger Cato's drunkenness than 
on the elder Cato's meanness. The latter's selling 
his old war-horse in Spain, in spite of a thousand 
associations, in order to save the expense of its trans- 
port to Rome has lived in history as one of the most 
odious actions ever performed by an illustrious man. 
Our instincts are impatient of such meannesses. 
They cry out against the reduction of life to a 
money measure. Obviously, if saving money is the 
highest point of wisdom, we must get rid not only 
of old horses, but of old men and women. Shylock's 
lament over his ducats and his daughter leaves him 
a tragicomic rather than a tragic figure. We hate 
to see the very heart and soul of a man haunted by 
money in this way. Scotsmen are more jeered at 
because one of them once said " Bang went saxpence !" 
or perhaps a music-hall comedian invented it 
than for any other reason. The Jews are also the 
subject of a thousand jokes on account of their 
" nearness," to use an old word, with money. Potash 
and Perlmiittcr, the Jewish-American play which has 
been entertaining all London, is simply a comedy of 
the shifting balance between thrift and human feel- 
ing. The French peasant seems in his attitude 
to money to be not unlike the Jew. Perhaps 
Maupassant's peasants are only the mechanical toys 
of fiction, but one cannot help suspecting that an 
anecdote from life is at the bottom of that story in 
which a mother is concerned less about her daughter's 
seduction than about the price the girl has extracted 
for it. The Irish had not till recently the reputa- 



tion of money-savers. But the plays of the Abbey 
Theatre have exhibited to us a peasantry as deeply 
absorbed in petty economies as the French or the 
Jews. We are shown in play after play small 
farmers haggling over their parents' deathbeds and 
over their daughters' marriage-portions One would 
conclude from them that thrift rather than thrift- 
lessness must be the leading Irish vice. I have 
heard it argued, indeed, that the Irish are wasteful 
merely in so far as they have been anglicized : that 
they have modelled themselves too slavishly on the 
most wasteful nation on the earth. Probably this 
is at least nine parts untrue. The English are cer- 
tainly an extraordinarily wasteful people, but they 
are wasteful out of an abundance. Theirs is a 
solvent wastefulness. They keep within the limits 
prescribed by Mr. Micawber for happy expenditure. 
It is (in the wealthier classes) individualistic, even 
egoistic, expenditure, but on the whole it is on the 
right side of bankruptcy. No doubt, the industrial 
revolution had much to do with introducing this 
element of practical sense into English wastefulness. 
The English aristocrat of the eighteenth century, 
even when he was a Prime Minister, was as extra- 
vagant and as cheerful under his debts as a stage 
Irishman. If there were a superfluity for everybody, 
one might rejoice in this golden open-handedness. 
But in a world in which the resources have never 
got quite fairly adjusted to the needs of the popu- 
lation one can only applaud spendthrifts with reserve. 
They are usually wasting other people's dinners. 
There is one curious type of spendthrift who is a 
spendthrift abroad, but a miser in his own home. 
There is scarcely a public-house without an example 
of him. His generosity is all selfishness. He finds 
it easy to stint his family: he finds it impossible 
to stint his boon companions. 
Thus one can never judge a man merely by the 


fact that he saves or spends money. There may be 
all sorts of good or bad reasons for doing either. I 
knew a man who used to invite his friends to high 
tea, and who thought nothing of interrupting the 
conversation to adjure them: "For God's sake, go 
easy with the butter !" Even in so extreme an in- 
stance of economy as this it would be a mistake to 
dismiss the man as a miser. Men have a hundred 
motives for saving. They may be supporting poor 
relations, or devoting their money to a cause, or 
going to get married. As for the man who saves 
money without a considerable motive he is beyond 
understanding. I have known a rich man who 
would run himself out of breath for a hundred yards 
in order that his 'bus might cost him a penny instead 
of twopence. I have heard others relating with glee 
how they discovered a shop here and a shop there 
where they were able to effect some trivial economy 
at an enormous expense of labour. Saving money, 
I suppose, has with these people become a sort of 
game or hobby, like collecting stamps. The human 
being is a playful creature and must amuse itself. 

Perhaps the official call for economy will result in 
the invention of a new game in which households 
will compete against each other in such things as 
miserly dinners. Certainly the new conditions will 
enable the least miserly to take up saving money 
either as a hobby or as a reputable mission in life. 
The generous man will no longer feel he is casting a 
slur on things in general by drinking water instead 
of wine, or by taking a 'bus where a taxicab would 
do, or by returning to his house with as much money 
in his pocket as when he left it. It is a vin ordinaire 
world into which the war has precipitated us. How 
skimping a time lies before us comes home to the 
imagination as we read the official German recom- 
mendations in regard to changes in the standard of 
living. Here is a typical passage from them : 



" The value of the refuse is frequently not realized. 
How much can be saved by peeling potatoes pro- 
perly has already been mentioned. All meat and 
fish refuse should be carefully used. All bones, 
skins, sinews, and smoked rinds can be boiled down 
and used for soups and with vegetables, and from the 
bones, heads, and roes of herrings good sauces can 
be made, for instance, for potatoes. The waste from 
vegetables and fruit should also be used. Cabbage 
stalks and celery leaves when cut into small pieces 
make a good seasoning for many dishes ; fruit peel 
and seeds make syrup, soup and jelly." 

Starched ladies' petticoats and starched shirt- 
fronts are condemned, because starch is made from 
what might be used as food ; and patriots are advised 
even to " economise soap in washing clothes, be- 
cause soap is largely produced from edible fats." 
Who of us had ever realized we were living so 
luxuriously ? Perhaps we shall yet be told that we 
shave too often or waste too much money on polish- 
ing our boots, or use knives and forks uneconomi- 
cally on many articles of food for which our fingers 
would do as well. Assuredly the Simple Lifers are 
inheriting the earth. One forsees dismally a world 
of potato skins, cabbage stalks, and cold water. 
Aged bon-vivants will have to dye their hair and 
smuggle themselves into the Army in order to get a 
decent plate of roast beef. . . . But perhaps the 
prospect is not so black as it at first appears. After 
all, if one wants a charming dinner at a low price, 
the economical French are more likely to give it to 
one than the wasteful English. If the reign of 
economy results in the general spread of French 
cookery, there are a few scatterpennies at least who 
will not complain too bitterly. 


Everybody desires peace as everybody desires to 
go to Heaven. Peace on earth, of course, not peace 
with Germany. Peace on earth means to the average 
man the liberty to wear a rosy face in the bosom of 
his family on Christmas Day, and the liberty to swell 
with a double dinner on Christmas evening. Possibly 
when he reads about the blessings of universal peace 
in the papers and hears about it from the platform, 
he interprets this as meaning the blessings of a 
world in which he could live thus rosily all the year 
round. Perhaps that is his vision of Heaven, too. 
Most of our visions can be interpreted in terms of 
the price list of Messrs. Fortnum and Mason. 

Certainly when we try to fly a little higher than 
that in our visions of a better world we leave ninety- 
nine men in a hundred cold. There is nothing that 
the ordinary man shrinks from more nervously than 
the idea of having to live in one of those Utopias 
which various Pacifist and Socialist writers are never 
tired of painting. Even as regards Heaven as it is 
commonly pictured for us, he wants to go there not 
because he thinks it is preferable to earth, but 
only because he thinks it is preferable to hell. It is 
the same with our dream of peace. We love it not 
for its own sake, but only when it is contrasted with 
the filth of war. Even while we praise it most 
warmly we have misgivings. We wonder at times 
whether, after all, it might not mean the supersession 
of brave men with guns by base creatures with 
nothing but gullets. We can no more comfortably 
imagine a world without arms than the world as it 
would have been if Adam and Eve had not eaten 
the apple. We idealize the Garden of Eden, but we 



realize only this battered earth. William Morris 
tried to paint for us something like a Garden of 
Eden in News from Nowhere. But, radiant and em- 
broidered with all the happinesses as that world was, 
the average man would as soon be a fish as live in it. 
We cannot get rid of the feeling that the air there is 
stagnant. And, as experiments have recently shown, 
even pure air that is stagnant has a more disastrous 
effect on us than impure air that is in motion. If 
this air that we breathe in the twentieth century is 
impure, it is still moving. We feel we are living in 
the great world and not in a glass case. The 
problem for the Pacifist, as for the Socialist, is to 
construct some other than a glass-case Utopia. 
Until he can do this, he might as well address his 
appeals to the wax figures in Madame Tussaud's as 
to ordinary men and women. 

It is often taken for granted by the preachers of 
war-at-any-price that the Pacifist is condemned out 
of hand by his Utopia. But this is nonsense. No 
man is condemned by his Utopia. If it comes to 
comparing Utopias, what about the Utopia of the 
war party itself, supposing it to be logical enough to 
have a Utopia ? If war is the supreme school of 
valour, as the Treitschkes and the Bernhardis seem 
to believe, how much of war will be necessary to 
give us a perfectly valorous world ? Will a war 
every generation do ? Or must we have a war every 
ten years ? Or every year ? Or every week ? The 
truth is, none of the war-at-any-price party dare sit 
down and paint in detail his Utopia of carnage. If 
the Utopia of peace is like lukewarm milk with the 
skin on it, the Utopia of war is like blood in buckets. 
One may use the same method of answering those 
who frown contempt on the Utopias of Socialists 
and express their enthusiasm for a competitive 
world. Let them describe a day in their Utopia of 
competition and see if the result is not more horrible 



than the police-court news in a Sunday paper. 
Chemist would poison chemist, and draper would lie 
in wait for draper with his yard-measure. It would 
be a world in which the strong man would not 
temper his strength with pity or the cunning man 
dilute his cunning with morality. Every man would 
be at every other man's throat instead of, as at 
present, merely at his pocket. It would be a world 
mad with the beastliness at which even the beasts 
draw the line. This, however, does not disturb the 
anti-Socialist in the slightest. He judges only his 
neighbours by their Utopias. The fact is: the people 
who are most impatient with Utopias are usually 
those who are fairly well satisfied with the present 
day. They are the persons who are least affected 
by the horrors of war or poverty these and the 
persons who are least hopeful of ever being able to 
get rid of them. There is no reason why anyone 
should be at all enamoured with peace on earth, if 
the earth as it is, dusty and deaf with strife, suits 
him (as he would say) down to the ground. That 
kind of man does not believe in the logic of war or 
the logic of competition any more than he believes 
in the logic of peace or Socialism. He believes only 
in the present day with the comforts, or it may be 
the bare necessities, it brings him. He repeats 
" Peace on earth " merely because it is an orthodox 
saying of the present era. He accepts it as he 
accepts a municipal gasworks. It is something 
already in existence, not a mere grasping after the 
air in the middle of next week. So long as he is not 
asked to look forward further than he can see 
through a telescope, he does not protest. But 
beyond that it is too distant from his fireside ; it is 
a world of cold and inhuman places. The last thing 
in which man will become adventurous is sociology. 
He feels in his bones that the South Pole itself is a 
million miles nearer than Utopia. 



Is there any way of making the Utopia of Peace 
less null and void than it has a way of being at 
present ? Or must Pacifists always be content to 
prostrate themselves before a negation, like Buddhists 
before the dream of Nirvana? "Where there is 
nothing there is God " runs a sentence out of which 
Mr. Yeats made a title for one of his plays. Are we 
also to rise or, if you prefer it, to sink into the faith 
that only where there is nothing there is peace? Not 
entirely. Perhaps, however, for the flesh-and-blood 
man there must be a certain nothingness about all 
ideals. It is the approach to the ideal, not the ideal 
itself, in which our realistic passions engage them- 
selves with the greatest confidence and delight. The 
ideal is like the angle o in trigonometry : it is im- 
possible to imagine it, and it is impossible get on 
without imagining it. So we take it for granted. It 
is equally impossible for bullying and quarrelsome 
creatures like ourselves to imagine Liberty, Equality, 
and Fraternity in their full implications with regard 
to human relationships. But France took the idea 
for granted, and, instead of worshipping it in its 
ideal nothingness, leaped towards it as if it were a 
real thing ; and that leap was the French Revolution. 
That is the plan on which we are created. We 
understand the end chiefly in terms of a journey. 
Our goal may be nothing more than two sticks 
crossed by a third, but the whole passion of our life 
is in the heave and swing of the struggle to reach 
that goal. That explains why it is that so many 
Pacifists are fierce and fiery fellows. They have 
their eyes on the goal of peace, but in their essay 
towards it they, too, experience all the intoxication 
and fury of the great game of idealism. If you are 
in search of gentleness of speech, you might as well 
go to the battlefield for it as to Gustav Herv6 or 
Emile Vandervelde. 

Perhaps those who do most to discredit peace as 



an ideal are the people who wish to convert it into 
bourgeois politics. Peace means to them not the 
rise of a new civilization, but merely the setting up 
of a great fat policeman called Peace over civiliza- 
tion as we now know it. They want peace among 
the great Empires because war is so expensive. 
Their ideal hardly goes beyond an agreement be- 
tween England and Germany to keep small, cheap 
armies and navies instead of big, dear armies and 
navies. People of this mood would regard it as an 
affair of minor importance if every small nation in 
Europe, from Ireland to Georgia in the Caucasus, 
were to be deprived of even the elements of self- 
government for ever and ever. Their denial of the 
right of war would include the denial of the right of 
insurrection, and, if they had their way, wars for 
liberty would be prohibited as severely as wars for 
plunder. One can, of course, understand and respect 
the religious objection to war the objection of Tol- 
stoy and the Quakers. There is something extra- 
ordinarily persuasive in Tolstoy's picture in Ivan the 
Fool of the nation that keeps turning the other cheek 
so often that other nations get tired of invading it 
and get won to its innocent love of peace. It is 
difficult to deny that such a miracle of childlikeness 
on the part of a whole nation might conquer the 
world. Certainly we shall be ready for the reign of 
universal peace by the time an entire nation can be 
found to turn the other cheek, not through timidity, 
but with cheerfulness and courage. But cheerful- 
ness and courage are the only things which could 
possibly justify any nation or any individual in 
turning the other cheek in literal Christian obe- 
dience. Somebody once said that to be poor in 
spirit is a very different thing from being poor- 
spirited. If our love of peace is poor-spirited, it is 
no improvement on our fathers' love of war. There 
was a league formed a year or two ago called the 



League of Peace through Liberty. That title has a 
better ring about it than if it were a mere league for 
peace without any reservations. But, as a matter of 
fact, the number of persons, apart from religious 
idealists, who call for peace at any price is almost 
as small as the number of just men who could be 
found in the Cities of the Plain. Most of us believe 
in peace so long as peace is consistent with ordinary 
human decency. But when every reason for peace 
is stripped from us except selfishness or cowardice, 
then our consciences begin to whisper to us that war 
is at least better than that. 



One cannot travel much in these days, even on the 
top of a bus, without overhearing a great deal of the 
conversation of soldiers. If the soldiers are strangers 
to each other, it is ten to one that, as soon as they 
have found out in what part of the country their 
respective camps are, they will go on to exchange 
experiences about food. " What's the food like ? " 

" Oh, good food. Eggs and bacon for breakfast " 

" Eggs ? We don't get no eggs except what's sent 
from home. We don't get no eggs, I can tell you. 
Eggs and bacon ! " " Yes, three times a week. Oh, 
I reckon the food's all right. Then, for the rest of 

the week, herrin's " " Herrin's ! Gripes, we 

don't get no herrin's " " Then for dinner some 

kind of meat, and peas " "Peas? Help!" 

" And potatoes, and after that rice, p'r'aps, and 
stewed prunes." " 'Strewth ! You're lucky. Where 
I am you could 'ardly eat the food, even if there 
was enough of it. Our cook never washes 'is 'ands. 
Dirty, greasy 'ands 'e 'as. Puts 'em all over every- 
thing. It ain't food gets served to us. It's a mess. 
One day after dinner we was nearly all sick. 
Couldn't eat anything for twenty-four hours after- 
wards. Then, after dinner I likes a cup of tea. I 
don't reckon I've 'ad my dinner unless I get tea with 
it." " We 'ave tea." " I'd give anything for a cup 
of tea." " Oh, we ain't got nothin' to complain of," 
replies the other, with a slight, boastful yawn ; 
" never tasted better grub in my life. 'Ow much 
d'you think I put on since I joined? " " 'Ow much? " 
"One stone eight. One stone yte!" "Oh, go 
an' scratch your neck with a broken bottle," his wife 



jeers across the 'bus at him with a facetiousness 
learned in the music-halls. " 'E's always boastin' 
about wot 'e eats," she tells the starved one. " 'E 
wants 'is blasted fish filleted now ! " ... 

There you have scraps of conversation, not 
invented in imitation of Mr. Pett Ridge, but set 
down as literally as memory and an incapacity for 
the correct misspelling of dialect will allow. They 
are typical of many soldiers' conversations that have 
recently reached one's ears in fragments. They are 
typical, I believe, of the way in which not all, but 
hundreds of thousands of soldiers talk. " All the 
boys as fit as fiddles," said a soldier to me some 
time ago, describing his regiment, "and the last 
thing you'd 'ear anybody mention is the war! " No 
doubt soldiers, like journalists, have their thoughts 
about Huns and the other things that are written 
about in the newspapers. But, unlike journalists, 
they do not devote twenty-four hours of the day to 
rhetoric. They hold fast to the more solid and per- 
manent human interests. They do not make haste 
to anticipate horrors as do the " realize-the-war " 
school of speech-makers and leader-writers. They 
are patient of the passing day, and while there is 
sport to be had or food and drink calling for praise, 
they are not to be intimidated out of their enjoy- 
ments. This, perhaps, would not be a possible 
attitude for an entire nation in time of war. It may 
even be argued that it would not be a desirable 
attitude for an entire nation in time of peace. But, 
whether in peace or war, how infinitely healthier 
and more efficient it is than that rake's progress of 
hysterics without ideals which appeals to so many 
people just now as the most heroic form of 
patriotism. . . . 

It is amazing, considering how curious and in- 
satiate is the human appetite, that so little has been 
written in praise of food. There has probably been 



less good poetry written in praise of eating than of 
any other decent human pleasure. Drinking has 
always been recognised as a proper subject of 
poetry, but eating has only been introduced into 
literature comically and by the satirists. When 
Horace wrote of wine, he wrote as a worshipper. 
When he wrote of food, he wrote scornfully as an 
abstemious man who was content with beans. To 
be comparably abstemious with wine has at many 
periods been thought actually discreditable ; as in 
Athens, where the enemies of Demosthenes tried to 
injure him by denouncing him as a water-drinker. 
Abstemiousness in food, on the other hand, has 
always been regarded as the mark of a hero and 
philosopher ; gluttony, of a villain. Sulla was a 
glutton. Cyrus, Caesar, and most of the great con- 
querors, were careless about food. Could Juliet 
have fallen in love with Romeo if he had had the 
gut of Trimalchio ? Has there ever been a lover in 
literature who ate to excess ? Even the authors who 
have praised eating with most enthusiasm have sel- 
dom praised it apart from liquor, though they never 
scruple to praise liquor apart from food. The 
aesthetes dwelt lovingly on ortolans, but it was 
ortolans plus Chambertin. What man of letters 
has ever glorified a teetotal dinner of six or seven 
courses ? It would seem too disgusting. Perhaps 
in each of us there lingers just a suspicion of disgust 
against eating. We have no pleasure in contem- 
plating all this energy of chewing and insalivation. 
There is humiliation in being so much of a beast. 
It was some sense of this that made Byron detest 
the sight of a beautiful woman eating. Probably 
there is a stage in the lives of many sensitive young 
amorists at which they share this detestation. 
Women used to be more aware of this than they 
now are. In the Victorian era, if we can trust the 
records, the girl who aifected to be unable to cope 



with the undivided wing of a chicken was common 
enough at genteel tables. The genteel small appetite 
has disappeared as a convention. But in the bloom 
of life, it may be, lovers are still given to fasting in 
each other's company, not so much because they are 
absent-minded as because they have a feeling that 
eating is no business for creatures of ecstasy such as 
they. It is all part of the ancient disparagement of 
the appetite. Mr. Chesterton, if I remember right, 
once justified the praise of liquor rather than the 
solid foods on the ground that drinking has spiritual 
and imaginative effects such as are unknown to the 
mere eater. An excess of beer opens a door into a 
kingdom, if it be only for a moment. An excess of 
ham sandwiches I think Mr. Chesterton used rail- 
way-station ham sandwiches in his illustration only 
leaves the stodgy man stodgier than before. When 
Mr. Chesterson argued on these lines he had not 
seen the gleam that comes into the eye of a 
twentieth-century soldier at the mention of duck and 
green peas. One of the most remarkable results of 
the European war has been a great diminution in 
the praise of liquor and a parallel increase in the 
glorification of beef and bread. 

As a matter of fact, the common man has never 
been a miser in his appreciation of food. It is only 
the poets and genteel persons who have pretended 
that eating is something which ought not to be dis- 
cussed in polite society. Literature is a form of 
intoxication, and so men of letters, like other artists, 
have never tired of praising Bacchus and Venus. 
But the common people still march in the train of 
Ceres, and anthropologists tell us that even our 
Easter holidays are a celebration of the rebirth of 
the food supply. They go so far as to suggest 
that Christianity originated in the worship of a 
vegetation deity. Bethlehem, they assure us, should 
be translated the House of Bread. I confess to a 



rooted scepticism in regard to theories which over- 
simplify, but it would scarcely be possible to exagger- 
ate the part which concern for the food supply has 
played in the history of religion. Even the Promised 
Land, which is still for so many Christians the symbol 
of that Paradise from which we are exiles, has always 
been painted in terms of food as a land flowing with 
milk and honey. Man in the early days was eager 
to eat his Eden. He was eager to eat his god. 
Food seemed to him a sort of insecure and divine 
miracle. If he had been born intelligent he would 
have realized that the world was so replete with food 
that there was no need to make such a fuss about 
them. But man was not born intelligent. He has 
not even yet grown intelligent. He is still in a sweat 
about his food as though there were not enough to 
go round, and each of us had to steal his portion at 
the expense of a neighbour. The air is winged with 
food ; the sea and the rivers that fall into the sea 
pour it in shoals from sunrise to sunset and from 
pole to pole ; the earth is coloured and clamorous 
with it. It is as if every landscape were loud with 
eatable things. The golden age of plenty has always 
been with us if we had but cared to live in it. One 
might parody Stevenson and say with truth that 
"the world is so full of eatable things, I'm sure we 
should all be as happy as kings." But we have pre- 
ferred to doubt the exuberant earth and to malign 
her for a niggard. If we had any real reverence for 
the earth we would no more dream of acquiescing in 
private ownership of food than of acquiescing in 
private ownership of the air. True, our food has a 
thousand enemies in the ardour of the sun and 
plagues and tempests and rains, and Nature is not 
such a prodigal as to teach us to be fools. But it is 
seldom, at least in these climates, that she will refuse 
her children bread. If any man goes hungry it is 
less likely that Nature is at fault than that humanity 



has blundered. May one hope that the multiplica- 
tion of good meals which has been brought about by 
the war will remain as a permanent social fact when 
the war is over ? One hears it continually said that 
an army marches on its stomach. Is not this as 
true of a nation as of an army ? It may be all very 
well to be careless of our own food, like Montaigne, 
who always ate the dish nearest to him, or Thoreau, 
who declared he could dine off a fried rat, but the 
virtue of carelessness about the food of others is less 
obvious. . . . 

Perhaps the best thing that could happen to 
European society would be that we should all begin 
to imitate the soldiers, and confess our meals one to 
another, the rich to the poor, the landlord to the 
labourer, at casual meetings in the streets and on 
'buses. One would like to see a duke pausing at the 
gates of Hyde Park to exchange accounts of the 
previous day's meals with a road-sweeper. Not that 
a duke is necessarily more greedy than a journalist. 
But, generally speaking, he is more symbolic of vast 
wealth and of a world in which neither tinned sal- 
mon nor tripe is regarded as a luxury. One would 
like, too, to see a bishop button-holing a docker and 
explaining to him with tears in his eyes how he had 
given up dessert as a war-time economy. Mutual 
confessions of this kind would surely make for a 
better understanding between (in the jingling phrase) 
the classes and the masses. . . . Ultimately they 
might even lead to the institution of one of the 
most necessary forms of human equality equality 
(more or less) of dinners. 



There was a Londoner who confessed the other 
day that he had taken to walking a part of the way 
to his office in the morning. He does not do it for 
pleasure, he said. He does not do it for economy. 
He does it from a feeling that at a time when so 
many human beings are engaged in physical combat 
one ought to keep one's body from falling below a 
certain level of fitness. He finds these morning 
walks, he declares, dull beyond words. He only 
manages to get through them by counting his steps 
as he walks. He finds interest in the discovery that 
the number of steps he takes to a mile does not vary 
beyond five or six from one day to another. He also 
enjoys marking the quarter-miles along the way by 
lamp-posts, pillar-boxes and other signs. Is London, 
then, such a desert to the senses as is implied by 
this ? Other men have asserted that it is a second 
Bagdad, and that one has only to pass behind a 
wall to discover a painted and mysterious life sur- 
passing the Arabian Nights. Certainly, in so popu- 
lous a city, to which ships come from the islands 
at the bottom of the world, where men of curious 
colours dwell, it would be surprising if everything 
were prosaic. One can more easily believe that 
romance sits like a secret in every window, and that 
out of every door beauty and adventure may sud- 
denly appear. There is not a stucco house in a 
stucco street but a door may open at any moment, 
and out may come a Chinaman, or an Irishman, or 



a Jewess. As one grows older one forgets that this 
is so, or becomes indifferent. But even a bald man 
has only to see the life of a street represented on a 
cinematograph to realize how interesting and un- 
expected it all is. If we were a higher race of beings, 
how excited we should be by the records of the life 
and vanities of these human animals passing in and 
out of their burrows ! They are more amazing than 
ants. They are funnier than penguins. They look 
now like bears, now like eagles, now like sheep, now 
like serpents. They are all the animals in turn, 
except that they walk on two legs and have pink 
or brown or yellow skins. How can we pass the 
burrows, caves and nests of this oddest of the families 
of creatures and yet feel uninterested as if we were 
walking between blank walls ? Or is there a genuine 
reason for our dullness ? Is there something tedious 
about these human houses which we do not find in 
nests and the lairs of beasts ? Perhaps there is. 
The eagle, we may be sure, builds his nest solely with 
a view to its excellence as a nest. The wasp hangs 
its house in the thorn-bush with no thought but of 
living happily in it. The coral insect if it is an 
insect I speak without prejudice raises a structure 
more wonderful than the Pyramids above the surface 
of the sea without any notion of letting it out after- 
wards at a profit. It is not mere indulgence in the 
luxury of morality when one sees in this the reason 
why the houses of animals are so interesting and the 
houses of human beings so dull. If each of us built 
his own house, like Thoreau, or for that is impos- 
sible if they were built singlemindedly for the use 
and pleasure of those who have to live in them, our 
streets would become rich in individuality and sig- 
nificance. As it is, the taint of trade is upon them. 
They are built by men who desire to foist upon us 
a minimum of excellence for a maximum of profit. 
How could a decent house grow up in this spirit ? 



How could beauty come out of so profane a door ? 
How could mystery sit at so mean a window ? 

The truth is there are few streets or avenues in 
London which, so far as the houses are concerned, 
justify themselves as a walk on a fine summer 
morning. One has to turn from the houses them- 
selves to the eccentricities of the human animals 
that scurry and crawl and glide along the pavements. 
One will not easily get tired in London so long as 
one is interested in observing the shapes of men and 
women and children. Here are seven millions of 
them, each as different from the other as two nations, 
most of them walking up and down streets, or up and 
down shops, or up and down stairs all their lives. 
One would imagine that it would require a city even 
to bury their dead bodies : one would imagine that 
seven million bodies could not be smuggled into the 
earth without raising a mountain on its surface. It 
is morbid, however, and, for all we know, false, to 
regard man too consistently as a doomed creature. 
His doom may be a mere incident a mere slough- 
ing of a skin in the adventures of a god. As he 
walks the streets of London he is, to be sure, a god 
a little dilapidated, a god shambling, a god that has 
seen better days. He may be a god with a stiff neck 
or (as you may infer from the advertisements) a god 
with a bad leg. He may be a god with disasters in 
every passage in the labyrinth of his body the 
passages of breath and blood and bile. But be he 
diseased or' crippled, or be he hidden under a silk 
hat, the seer will discover him and announce the 
glory of his origin and his end. The seer may, of 
course, be a liar, but he has at least discovered a 
means of bringing space and brightness into the 
streets. He sees even grocers as slim-cheeked cari- 
catures of divinity grocers who try to make you 
buy Danish butter instead of the butter you want 
on the ground that " the Danes, you know, are per- 



fectly loyal to us, sir," or apologize for not serving 
you with a Dutch cheese on the plea that " trade 
with Holland has fallen off during the war. The 
Dutch, I fear, madam, favour the other side." No 
street that contains a grocer's shop is entirely dull. 
If you find it so, go in and see the grocer that 
starveling Zeus in shirt-sleeves who commands the 
map of the world for the materials on which he 
makes his penny profits. Tea from China and Ceylon, 
dates from Persia, olives from Italy, coffee from 
Arabia, oranges from Spain, nuts from Brazil, oil 
from Mexico, sago from Borneo, rice from Java, 
pine-apples from Australia, fish (in tins) from the 
seven seas, nutmegs and pepper from blue-robed 
islands, almost everything in his shop a seafarer 
one has only to look into the man's window to travel. 
He does not, it may be, display the profuse colours 
of foreign countries to us as the fruiterer does. He 
does not communicate the glory of the earth, but 
rather he has tinned and bottled and spiced and 
weighed and papered it as, to say truth, he would 
pack up the Milky Way itself in blue and brown bags 
if it were saleable. But none the less he is tied to 
romance as by a string. He mixes romance with 
his prose as when he magnificently describes himself 
as an Italian warehouseman. 

But there are streets in London into which not 
even the grocers' shops bring any brightness. There 
are streets so dismal that they could scarcely be 
more so if every house-front were hung with crape. 
Malodorous, unswept, grey, they are haunts of 
butchers' flies, they reek with the smell of fried 
fish and green peas, their windows are all sweat 
and dust, the confectioners sell picture-postcards of 
squeezing couples, the newsagents sell snuff and to- 
bacco, a shave costs three-halfpence, old clothes 
dangle on cords outside the second-hand clothes 
shops and defeat the fried fish with a worse smell. 



They would be like streets of the dead if the placard 
of a Northcliffe paper did not at intervals proclaim 
panic outside a newsagent's shop in purple and 
scarlet letters. Who would willingly go walking in 
such a sty ? It is no wonder that man has fled under- 
ground from such sights and smells in his daily 
travels. London, taken as a whole, is a city of mean 
streets. That humanity with its heroism and its 
cheerful laughter has survived existence in these rows 
of hired stalls suggests that the seer who spies a god 
in man is nearer the truth than the pessimist who 
spies an insect. Perhaps it is a sort of genteel 
cowardice, but, in spite of this, there are many of us 
who would rather our children had never been 
born than that they should be born into such sur- 
roundings. . . . 

But I had intended to speak of the pleasures of 
walking in London, of the constant sense of dis- 
covery as one passes the doors, of the constant 
speculation on one thing and another. London 
bubbles with sights. There is entertainment even 
in the sight of a sweep's broom over a shop with the 
announcement that the proprietor combines the pro- 
fessions of chimney-sweep and carpet-beater. It 
seems absurd for some reason or other that a sweep 
should beat carpets. One comes again on a sign in 
a shabby street, " Ostrich feathers cleaned, French 
and English style," and one is pleased to have added 
to one's list of queer trades. Nor does one ever 
cease to be fascinated by the sight of those glass 
cases full of false teeth which are displayed outside 
the doorways of cheap dentists. They are horrible, 
they are ugly, they are worse than butchers' shops. 
But there is a kind of mockery in them, as in skele- 
tons, which pleases us. They are a jeer at the beauty 
of man. And when we see beneath them the notice, 
" Old false teeth bought," we get a shudder of repul- 
sion such as we never got from Baudelaire. Who 



is it that sells old false teeth ? Where do they come 
from ? From the mouth of a dead man ? Who 
wears them afterwards ? This is speculation among 
horrors. . . . 

Perhaps, if you want to feel comfortable, you had 
better take no walks in London except in the parks 
and squares and down Piccadilly and along the river. 
In the daytime at any rate. At night it is different. 
Night turns London from a collection of suburbs 
into a stage, and one passes into a world of wonder- 
ful and fleeting figures which seem capable of love 
and murder and beauty and everything except what 
is commonplace. This is especially so since the 
lights were lowered owing to the war. Lamps that 
used to gleam like great flares now peep like dying 
candles high above the Tartarean streets. One 
imagines that a city lit by glow-worms would be 
less pitch-black than this. The low lighting has had 
at least the fortunate effect of enabling us to see the 
buildings and streets in mass instead of in detail ; 
they loom out of the night with an unexpected ma- 
jesty. To walk in London at night in these times 
cannot be so much less wonderful than to have 
walked among the temples of Athens by starlight. 
It is by many people, indeed, being revelled in as a 
luxury. . . . That is why the lights must be 
turned on again, full blaze, as soon as the war is 
over. We must never be allowed to enjoy walking 
in London till London has been made fit to walk in. 
And that will not be till it is as fit to live in as, in 
their own kinds, an ant-hill or a bird's nest. 



At the last door on the left my papers were taken 
from me, and I was told to sit down and wait. There 
was a flat wooden form outside the door. Down the 
middle of the hall other long seats had been laid 
back to back, and a hundred or more weary-looking 
men sat on them, some of them talking to each other, 
some of them silently gazing into space or shifting 
their thin legs on the uncomfortable seats. They 
had, all of them, I think, been medically rejected at 
a previous examination. Some of them certainly did 
not look the part at least, not in their clothes. But 
most of them had the wasted appearance, so common 
in London, of half-sucked pear-drops. Among them 
a little hunchback sat, dangling his feet solitarily; 
another man sat at the far side of the hall, a 
well-dressed man, his shoulders and head twitching 
beyond control. On the whole, they were a lean 
and depressed company. A lean man in a bowler-hat 
and glasses, who sat beside me, told me that he had 
just recovered from pleuro-pneumonia. The sun 
came swelteringly in on us through the glass roof 
where the awning had fallen to pieces and hung 
down ragged and dirty. Everywhere one had a 
vision of melting brows, of veins swelling on temples, 
of veins swelling on hands. One turned one's eyes 
from the men to the walls and read an endless 
number of ugly yellow posters giving particulars 
about separation allowances for soldiers' wives and 
blazoning forth mottoes such as: "You are helping 
the Germans if you use a motor-car for pleasure." 
One waited for something to happen, but for a long 
time nothing happened. Occasionally a soldier or an 



old wrinkled clerk would come out of a door with a 
paper in his hand and walk leisurely to another door. 
He would be watched on his passage as by Argus. 
He would disappear and leave us in dullness. He 
would reappear and a crowd of eyes would once 
more follow him from door to door. Sometimes a 
fat, bright-eyed young Jew, with a smile that never 
changed either to spread or diminish, would stop 
one of these people in order to make sure that his 
case had not been missed. . . . 

One hoped it would be all over by lunch-time. 
The dapper man, tall as a tree and thin as a skeleton, 
who had brought the Times with him and was 
working through it column by column, would soon 
have reached the last page. At length a soldier with 
a big stomach came out of a room with an armful 
of papers and began calling out names. People rose 
from all sides and gathered round him like hens 
hurrying to a meal. He shouted them back to their 
seats and ordered that none but those he named 
should approach him. Then he called out another 
name. " Here ! " answered a voice sharp as a rifle- 
shot. The soldier paused and looked at the little 
man running up to him. "You've been in the Army 
before," he said. " Yes, sergeant," the little man 
admitted. "I knew it," said the sergeant; "no place 
like the Army for learning manners." He then began 
to march down the hall roaring names, as it were, 
out of the back of his head, like a railway-porter 
shouting out a list of stations. He was followed by 
a draggle of men anxiously listening in the hope of 
recognising their own names amid the inarticulate 
bellowing. Another soldier began to call out other 
names at the far end of the hall. After each list 
was ended, the men who had not been mentioned 
sat back and shook their heads at each other with 
resigned smiles. An official passing by stooped 
down and commented : " It's a bloody farce. They'll 



examine a hundred men and not get ten. You'll 

For a farce, I confess, I found it dull. I thought 
that cattle penned up closely at a fair and left unsold 
till the end of a hot day must feel very much as we 
did. In the end the soldier with the big stomach 
came out and told us that we shouldn't be examined 
before lunch now, and that we might go away for 
three-quarters of an hour and have something to eat. 
I went into the street and bought a Star to see what 
had happened in the outside world. I felt that a 
great battle might easily have been won while I was 
waiting on the hard bench outside the wooden room 
in the hall of the White City. I saw a Lyons tea- 
shop and suggested to the man who had had pneu- 
monia that we might go and have some coffee. " I 
have never been in a Lyons's shop," he said hesita- 
tingly, "what is it like?" I did not know that such 
innocence existed in London. " I always prefer a 
cook-shop myself," he said, with a sad look up and 
down, and he walked across the road to a public-house. 

When I got back to the White City I ran into 
another man who had also had pneumonia. He 
drew a little square figure in the air with his fore- 
finger and told me that there was a patch of that 
size missing from his right lung. I sat down on a 
bench beside him. " Do you mind if I smoke an 
asthma cigarette ? " he said, as though it were a 
jest, and lit one. We had hardly begun to talk 
when a man with heart-disease came up a tall, 
pallid young man, very straight in the back, with 
a man-of-the-world smile and a man-of-the-world 
cigarette. He said that he had just been examined 
and had been ordered to undergo a special examin- 
ation at a heart hospital. " I regard that as a 
distinctly hopeful sign," he said. Soldiers and clerks 
continued to walk at intervals from door to door, 
and occasionally one of the soldiers would march off 



with a brood of invalids to the dressing-room. The 
rest of us said, " Hard luck ! " and waited prostrate 
with the heat for the next roll-call. A man at the 
far end of the hall opened a lemonade stall. I took 
Scott's Lives of the Novelists out of my pocket and 
tried to read it. In five minutes I put it back again, 
yawning. I continued to yawn for three solid hours 
hours as solid and heavy as lead. I had arrived 
at eleven in the morning. It was half-past four 
before I heard my name called, and was taken with 
a number of other men into a wooden hutch and 
told to undress. Clothes were lying all about as in a 
bathing-box. Some men were struggling into their 
trousers; others were clambering out of them. One 
little man who had just been examined was the skin- 
niest human being I ever saw. He had not enough 
flesh on his bones to make a decent-sized chicken. 
He was as bald as a block of ice save for a fringe of 
grey hairs on each side of his skull, and altogether 
he looked in his glasses like a little wizened creature 
of seventy. Other men were to be seen wearing 
belts, bands and trusses round various parts of their 
bodies. One felt at times as though one must be 
at a holy well among people who were awaiting 
miraculous cures rather than among young men in 
the prime of life about to be chosen as warriors in a 
great war. Horace Walpole once declared, on an 
occasion when every invalid and cripple in the House 
of Commons had been whipped up to vote against 
John Wilkes, that the floor of the House looked like 
nothing so much as the Pool of Bethesda. Here 
was London's Pool of Bethesda, with the sick and 
the maimed cursing the whole business indignantly 
under their breath. Through a doorway one had a 
view of the examination-room, which was full of 
naked men, with doctors listening at their chests 
or making them dance before them with strange 
gestures. We were permitted to wear our jackets 

113 I 


as a part-covering till the actual examination should 
begin. Suddenly the half-naked man beside me, an 
attractive-looking youth with delicately curved nose 
and a wing of gravel-coloured hair, closed his eyes 
and drooped his head like a dying chicken. He 
began to gasp, and his head swayed backwards and 
forwards over his chest like a ship plunging in a 
heavy sea. I wondered if he was about to have a fit 
or was dying. I saw myself skipping forth, a pard- 
like spirit beautiful and swift, in my little short jacket 
and with my long hairy legs, to summon the assist- 
ance of the doctors in the next room. "Are you 
feeling ill ? " I inquired. " No, no," he answered, 
opening his eyes wearily; "it's only asthma. Haven't 
you ever seen it before ? " Other men tripped back 
from being examined : some of them with patient, 
contemptuous smiles; others flushed with indig- 
nation and sprinkling the already foul air with 
"bloodies," all of them rather like undergraduates 
exchanging experiences after an " oral." I watched 
a bearded doctor in his shirt-sleeves through the 
doorway, as he popped his stethoscope over a chest 
that seemed to me to be the chest of an athlete. 

The examination-room itself was a long wooden 
room, with a row of tables littered wi}h books of 
official forms and papers, and with clerks writing 
slowly at them as though each separate letter were 
a work of national importance. The room was 
divided into sections by red screens. In every 
section a man stood in his skin while a doctor 
examined his teeth or palpated his chest or jigged 
him in the groin, calling out such things as " vari- 
cocele left " to the clerks, who solemnly wrote it 
all down. The doctors, I must say, were a good- 
humoured lot. If one was disgusted, it was when 
one's eye travelled round the room and fell on a 
back with a large sore patch running across the 
small of it, or on a bucket of dirty slops with 



matches and cigarette-ends floating in it near a man 
who was being tested for Bright's disease. I con- 
fess I could not help laughing as some long string of 
misery was ordered to prance on the floor, the doctor 
bidding him, " Now swing your arms now rise on 
your toes now hop." It was as though a company 
of Spanish beggars had suddenly reverted to the 
conditions of the Garden of Eden and had then 
been bitten by the tarantula. How indignantly some 
of them danced ! " You say you have a discharge 
from the right ear ? " the doctor would say. Then 
he would turn to one of the clerks and repeat to 
him : " Discharge from the right ear." " Now cough," 
he would add, seizing the recruit by the crutch. 
Once more, as I looked round, I thought of the men 
who had been called up as cattle at a fair and of the 
doctors as butchers and farmers going the rounds 
and prodding the beasts with sticks, sizing up their 
value as flesh. 

My own turn came. A little doctor with a gentle 
light on his face like a Christian's and a stethoscope 
hanging round his neck like a scapulary called me 
over. I had to write my name once or twice. He 
asked me gently about my health. I ran down a 
list of diseases, curable and incurable, with which 
various doctors had strewed my path, dogmatically 
contradicting one another. One of them, alas! was 
written on me like a crooked note of exclamation. 
The doctor examined my heart, my pulse, my 
tongue. He made me do gymnastics for him. He 
looked down my throat and said, " Pharyngitis." 
As the clerk seemed to hesitate, he began to spell it: 

"P h a r y ." He covered my right eye 

with a piece of cardboard and made me read PENT 
from a card hanging on the wall. He covered my 
left eye and made me read O S Q D F. " Sight 66," 
he said to the clerk. He weighed me, he took my 
height, he measured my chest when it was full and 


when it was empty. He asked me if I had ever had 
rheumatic fever or a pain in my ears. He then 
bade me wait while a deaf man was being examined 
and, after him, a healthy-looking man who kept 
putting a queer instrument up his nose. 

I then had to go to another table where a sturdy, 
cheerful doctor in khaki was sitting a whitening- 
haired man in gold-rimmed glasses with a gift for 
making diseased and naked persons smile as they 
passed under his inquisition. His eyebrows rose as 
he looked at my figure. " How did you come to get 
like that?" he asked in amazement. I told him that 
it was the result of an idle and misspent youth. "Are 
you an Irishman ? " was his next question. I 
admitted it. " Thy speech bewrayeth thee,'' he said. 
He then examined my heart, and showed me so 
much considerateness that I thought it must be very 
seriously affected indeed. . . 

Back at last to the dressing-room, where men 
were asking each other, " Did they pass you ? " and 
blaspheming. A long, black, consumptive Scotsman 
was saying : " It's a bloody disgrace to call up a 
man wi' lungs at all." Attendants began to wash 
down Ihe hall with a hose, and the water crept in 
along the floor of the dressing-room. We were 
taken across the hall to another room and told to 
sign our names in a book in order that we might be 
given 2s. gd. I signed, but forgot the 2s. gd. A 
Scottish soldier ran after me with it. " What do 
you mean by leaving your money behind you ? " he 
asked warmly. We were then taken to yet another 
room and left at the door, while two aged men 
crouched over a table within and wrote out rejection 
certificates. At the end of half an hour or so my 
turn to go in came. One of the clerks wrote out my 
certificate, and another wrote the same details in a 
book. It was apparently to be a certificate of identity 
as well as of rejection. " Complexion fresh," they 



wrote down. " Eyes what colour are your eyes ? " 
They asked me had I any scars or marks on my 
body. I told them no, nothing but a mole or two. 
" Moles will do," they said, " where are they ? " I 
said that I really wasn't quite sure. I was almost 
certain there was one on my right side, and I thought 
though I wouldn't swear it there was one on my 
left. They nodded as though to say that was enough, 
and wrote down on my card, " Moles on right and 
left flanks." 

I had been at the White City since the morning. 
When at last I escaped into the street it was close 
upon half-past six. I felt that the certificate did not 
exaggerate in describing me as " permanently and 
totally disabled." 

I suddenly remembered the two-and-ninepence. 

I hailed a taxi and got into it, moles and all. 



Those who were most bitter against Mr. Lloyd 
George when he preached at dukes and landlords 
are applauding him most loudly now that he has 
taken to preaching at working men. It is a common 
belief that the working man exists to be preached at, 
and the more the better. He is the anvil upon 
which the hammer of rulers and masters needs to be 
brought down at regular intervals with a noise. He 
is the bottom dog, the black sheep, everything that 
requires the strong hand. Like the black man in Mr. 
Kipling's poem, he is half devil and half child. He 
may be flattered so long as flattery will keep him 
contented in his place; but when flattery proves un- 
availing, he must be brought to heel with stern 
words, and, if necessary, with sterner deeds. Canute 
saw that those who urged him to utter his prohibi- 
tion, " Thus far and no farther," to the incoming sea 
were (in a phrase leader-writers love) knaves and 
fools ; but the Canutes of these days are more self- 
confident as they bid the tide of labour keep its 
distance and not encroach too far on the fortunate 
shore of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The truth 
is, many people in the upper and middle classes 
cannot cease regarding working people as members 
of a subject race. They believe that working men 
are doing their duty only when they are keeping 
quiet. They hire an exceeding great number of 
mouths and pens to preach to the workers the 
doctrine of non-resistance. Every time the workers 
resort even to passive resistance, it is not long till 
they are painted as wickeder than the Huns on the 
Strength of some isolated street incident. They are 


denounced as disloyal and by every other epithet 
that can suggest that they are enemies of the State. 
Luther told the German peasants when they rose in 
rebellion : " They ought to suffer and be silent, if 
they want to be Christians." That is a widely held 
ideal of conduct for the working classes. It is not 
preached by people who are Tolstoyans; it is 
preached by men who hold that there is one morality 
for those who rule, and another for those who serve. 
That, I think, must be one of the trials of an intelli- 
gent workingman's life. He is continually treated as 
though he were a different kind of creature from 
men who own land and money and shops. 

It is, I admit, as easy to sentimentalise over the 
working man as to abuse him. It is easy to see him 
as a figure of tragic simplicity, something painted 
by Millet or sculptured by Rodin, symbolizing not 
merely the dignity but the divinity of labour. He 
is in this view Atlas with the world on his shoulders. 
He is the builder of cities, the harvester of vineyards, 
the discoverer of bread. He towers above us like a 
moral lesson rather than a man. He holds in his 
hands all gifts, and statesmen and admirals and 
millionaires are his pensioners. He seems perfec- 
tion incarnate in his strength and endurance. He 
has the air of a messenger from Heaven rather than 
of the greasy outcast of the public-houses painted by 
his enemies. This may be as false a view as the 
other, but it is at least an invention ominous of a 
more cheerful world, not a mere caricature scrawled 
by hate. It emphasises the fact that the working 
man is, above all, a sufferer ; he suffers in order that 
others may have abundance. It may be argued that 
he does not really suffer so acutely as those for whom 
he suffers that his imagination is dull and his 
sensibilities blunted. But is not this the supreme 
suffering of all, this loss of the power to suffer ? 
Who would exchange imagination for dullness 



sensitiveness of body and soul for insensibility ? To 
do so is to commit suicide ; it is to prefer to suffer 
death rather than to suffer life. But as a matter of fact 
the theory of the insensibility of the working classes 
is so much nonsense. It may be that the average 
working man is curiously insensitive before the 
beauty of some blue-hooded Madonna of Titian's ; 
but then so is the average peer and so is the average 
manufacturer. It may be that use and necessity 
have made him comparatively insensitive to the 
ugliness of stale clothes and smelly bedrooms and 
two-year-old whiskey. But he is sensitive like the 
rest of us to cold and heat, to the difference between 
a full belly and an empty one, to pain and pleasure, 
to love and anger and hatred, to the difference 
between living in a smaller room and living in a 
larger one, between being bullied and being treated 
like a reasonable creature, between a halfpenny 
and a sovereign, between living in a pig-sty of 
children and living in a clean and smiling 
home, between a day at Brighton and a day on 
the operation table, between looking forward to 
a pension and looking forward to the workhouse, 
between getting ill and getting well, between 
living and dying. Assuredly, we must not get 
into the habit of regarding the working man as a 
person who may be knocked about, stuck with pins, 
exposed to the elements, and generally neglected 
without injury, like certain ugly-eyed dolls that 
children love. 

Those who regard the working man as a different 
kind of being from themselves, however, seem to 
think that the only way in which one can do him 
serious damage is by allowing him to become better 
off than he is at present. This attitude to the 
working classes was clearly demonstrated the other 
day in the West London police-court when the 
magistrate, Mr. Fordham, lectured a soldier's wife 



who was accused of disorderly conduct. I have no 
doubt from the evidence that the woman deserved a 
lecture, but Mr. Fordham's lecture was exactly the 
kind that ought not to have been delivered. " You 
are," he told the unhappy woman, "getting much 
too large an allowance an allowance which really 
in itself drives you to drink and to squander money. 
Probably if you had less money by way of allowance, 
you would keep much more sober." If Mr. Fordham 
regards it as his mission to preach gospel poverty 
to mankind in general, his lecture is in a measure 
justifiable. But if he does not, by what right does 
he address his condescending middle-class morali- 
sings to the poor instead of to peeresses and the 
wives and daughters of millionaires ? Does he find 
in the world about him that it is money which drives 
people to drink ? Would he recommend a young 
lady in his own class to refuse an inheritance on the 
ground that it would bring with it temptations to 
drunkenness ? Does he find that the more one's 
salary increases the more one feels like squandering 
it on alcohol ? He knows that it is not so. Riches are 
no charm against drunkenness ; but it is not excess 
of money, but excess of poverty, that in general 
drives men and women to excess of drinking. It is 
in the slums, not in the Bishop's palace or in the 
country house or in the villa, that drunkenness is 
most usual in these days. Mr. Fordham's lecture is 
not based on facts but is merely an expression of 
the middle-class suspicion of improvements in the 
position of working people. Working men are not 
admitted to have the right to improve their position 
except by thrift. Do they ask for more money ? 
They are denounced on the ground that, if they got 
it, they would only drink it. Do they ask for more 
leisure? They are denounced because, if they got it, 
they would spend it in the public-houses. Do they 
ask for more power? They are denounced for 



plotting death, disaster, and damnation against the 
State. In a State which glories in competition they 
are forbidden to compete except against each other ; 
if they enter into the larger competition for the 
country's wealth, they are accused of tyranny, red 
ruin, and the breaking up of laws. They are the bad 
boys of the family, whom it is always safe to blame. 
Whenever any dispute arises between them and their 
employers, they are almost invariably regarded as 
the aggressors. The employer who insists that war 
shall be the occasion of lower real wages and larger 
profits is looked on as a sensible business man. The 
worker who demands that during war-time his 
children's stomachs shall be filled at least as usual 
is browbeaten as a fellow who is disturbing national 
unity and interfering with the supply of necessary 
things to his brothers in the trenches. The employer 
who strikes against giving his men an honest wage 
is never painted in half so dark colours. And yet it 
is his refusal to pay a fair wage that has again and 
again in recent months held up the work of the war. 
Not that the working man is a saint who never 
errs. But consider his position. He has no security 
in his work beyond the week frequently not beyond 
the day. He lives at the whim of the employing 
classes. He lives as it were at a week's notice. He 
sees his children growing up about him, and he 
knows that an accident may happen to him any day 
as the result of which they will be left to the harsh 
charity of the parish. He sees them growing up with 
the gutter for their only garden, and he speculates 
on the future of all that brightness and laughter 
and its insecure tenure even of the gutter. He sees 
them doomed to live almost for certain in the same 
flowerless monotony in which he himself has always 
lived. When they come into the house, he is like a 
man fighting for air. They are all fighting for air. 
They are overcrowded ; they cannot get away from 


each other; they get on each other's nerves. Hence 
the furies of mean streets, the outbreaks of violence 
and drunkenness. He attempts to bring some of the 
beauty of the world into his home ; he has a caged 
bird, a cat, a pot of geraniums. He has one or two 
meanly showy glass ornaments on the mantelpiece, 
such as he might win on a Bank holiday. Not that 
his house is always as poor as this. People tell you 
that the Yorkshire miner has often a piano in his 
house; they tell you this with a smile, as much as to 
say that a working man has really no right to have a 
piano in his house. But his house is almost always 
ugly. He is dumped, as it were, into a brickfield ; 
he has no inheritance in the teeming earth. Where- 
evcv he goes it is the same. He is herded into 
cheap galleries in the theatres : he is pushed into 
separate bars in the public-houses. He is a person 
cut off, put in his place. He is an outsider, and his 
children are outsiders, in a world of motor-cars and 
rich dresses and gardens. He eats what the more 
fastidious classes leave. He bets on horses that rich 
men run. He, too, is caged-off, like his bird. . . . 
And yet, paradoxically enough, he is cheerful rather 
than bitter, and he faces death for his country in 
great battles with music-hall jokes on his lips. He 
enjoys the sight of kings and members of Parliament. 
He enjoys eating and drinking and making love and 
playing with his children. At least it is so in a 
thousand thousand cases. He has reconciled him- 
self to the little circle of his lot, and does not look 
for pleasure beyond its circumference. . . . 

Luckily, every now and then he becomes more 
inquisitive and adventurous, and the circle is made 
wider. He is then attacked on all sides as a tres- 
passer, but he is really a far sounder patriot than 
those who by withstanding him trespass upon the 
rights of the coming race. 



Those who are happiest over the change in the 
Government are happy chiefly for two reasons. One 
is that they have got new lawyers for old. The 
other is that there has been an influx of business- 
men into the new Ministry. For some years past 
there has been a growing inclination to paint the 
business-man in bright colours. He seems to stand 
for everything that is practical in contrast to the 
mess, muddle and make-believe which are supposed 
to be the attendant circumstances of the labours of 
most of the politicians. 

When people talk of the business-man in politics, 
they often give one the impression that they regard 
all business-men as being of one type. It is as 
though they believed there was no difference between 
a cotton-manufacturer and an advertising-manager, 
or between an advertising-manager and a shop- 
keeper. They have an idea, apparently, that to 
make money in any branch of manufacture, com- 
merce or trade, is the mark of an all-round practical 
man. Kings and landowners and clergymen, lawyers 
and artists and men of science are, by comparison, 
inhabitants of the moon. Now it can hardly be 
doubted that the heads of great businesses like 
Lord Rhondda nnd Sir Alfred Mond may perform 
immense services to the State services as immense 
as those performed by landowners and lawyers. But 
this does not mean that the ordinary man who is 
called a business-man has the right to regard the 
genius for organization possessed by a Lord Rhondda 
or a Sir Alfred Mond as a specific and common 
faculty of the business world. A business-man 



either may be a great producer or he may be I use 
the word in no disparaging sense a great " tout." 
He may reveal a gift for increasing the productive 
capacity of his firm or he may merely reveal a gift 
for increasing orders for the goods of his firm. In 
other words, his talent may be either the talent of 
organization or the talent of persuasion. In the 
latter case he may be worth a small fortune to a firm 
of manufactures competing with other firms, but- he 
may not be worth as much as an ordinary civil ser- 
vant in the work of government. Persuasion is, no 
doubt, an art required in politics and the civil 
service as well as in business. But the plausibility 
of the business-man is, I believe, crude and ineffec- 
tive compared to the plausibility of lawyers and 
University graduates. 

As for those leaders of industry who do possess 
the genius for organization, even they have seldom 
the added genius for statesmanship. In these days, 
when there is so much talk of national organization, 
many people seem to regard statesmanship as a 
problem in business organization and nothing more. 
This is a mere confusion of terms. The State is a 
household as well as a business, and, just as a 
man who may be able to organize his business 
into prosperity may be able to organize his 
household into nothing but gloom, so there might 
conceivably be a man who could organize a business 
into success but could only organize a nation into 
disaster. The problems of statesmanship call for 
qualities of mind and (not in the mawkish sense) 
sympathy such as the ordinary business-man has, in 
his favourite phrase, " no use for." The statesman 
is not permitted to shape events towards the single 
end of making profit for himself and a number of 
shareholders within the four corners of the law. He 
is required to be as disinterested in his leadership as 
the business-man is bound by force of circumstance 



to be " interested." He may be, up to a point and 
quite a considerable point ambitious and fond of 
his salary, but his service of the State does not 
involve profiteering as does the business magnate's 
service of his firm. The business magnate is the 
head of a nation within a nation, and his loyalty is, 
though not necessarily to a dangerous extent, divided. 
He is impatient of laws which restrict his liberty to 
do as he likes in his sub-nation. He fought as 
bitterly as the Stuarts in order to establish his divine 
right to absolute power. The nineteenth century 
was spent in limiting the powers of business-men as 
the seventeenth was spent in limiting the powers of 
kings. The business-men were indignant when it 
was suggested that the workers had a right to 
organize themselves into unions in order to obtain 
better conditions of labour. They were amazed 
when they were denied the right to make use of the 
services of as many children as could be tempted 
it was usually the parents rather than the children 
who were tempted into their factories by a tiny 
wage. Many of them were genuinely shocked when 
the proper sanitation of their factories was declared 
to be a matter not of private but of public interest. 
Not that there have not always been men of high 
ideals in business. But the average business point 
of view has, as a rule, been selfish and anti-social. 
Its gospel has been a gospel of gain, not of the 
increase of human culture and human happiness. 
There is probably a greater proportion of business- 
men to-day whose ideals rise above this penny 
wisdom than there has ever been in history, but the 
organization of gain is still with the bulk of them 
the golden rule of life. There is fortunately only 
one great business in England which has frankly 
taken for its motto, " Our trade our politics," but 
the interference of the business-man in politics for 
private ends is not unknown in other trades also. 



And the experience of some other countries in this 
respect has been much worse. It may be retorted 
that the landowners have gone in for the politics of 
their property quite as much as the business-men, 
and it cannot be denied that every class is inclined 
to legislate for itself under the pretence that to 
legislate for so admirable a class is to legislate for 
the nation. That, indeed, is one of the temptations 
of human nature which is well-nigh irresistible. If 
there were any danger of the public making a fetish 
of government by landowners, one would at once 
emphasise the dangers involved in such a system. 
But, as it is government by business-men which 
happens just now to be in the air, one is forced to 
consider the qualifications of the business-man for 
such work. 

The business-man of the better sort would, I 
think, be among the first to admit the shortcomings 
of business-men as a class. He would admit that, 
outside their ordinary sphere, many of the ablest 
of them are extremely ignorant men men of 
grotesquely narrow vision. The land-owning classes 
have at least been brought up in the tradition that 
they are the governing classes, and, though from the 
point of view of a Matthew Arnold they may be 
" barbarians," they at least breathe to some extent 
the atmosphere of the large world. They include a 
considerable proportion of men the interest of whose 
lives is problems of government, problems of foreign 
affairs, problems of this or that sort of national 
service. I have no wish to see government by the 
aristocratic classes revived as a political ideal, but, 
badly as they have governed the world in the past, 
it is only fair to credit them with having produced 
a great number of men of what is called public 
spirit. This tradition of public spirit has been strong 
especially in politics, diplomacy, armies and navies. 
Though it has again and again been tempered 



by the desire to find jobs for relations, and has been 
accompanied by a narrow view of the welfare of the 
State, it has seldom been quite extinguished by the 
spirit of profiteering. The record of the business-men 
who have so far entered politics is also creditable 
enough, but there is no doubt that the obsession 
of profiteering is stronger in business-men as a class 
than in other classes. It may be thought that, this 
being so, the introduction of the business-man into 
government will mean that he will begin to make 
profits for the State instead of making profits for a 
firm. There is an idea abroad that the efficiency of 
business-houses is vastly superior to the efficiency of 
Government departments. This is open to question. 
For one thing, the profit aimed at in public depart- 
ments is very different from the profit of dividends. 
It is, or should be, the profit of the citizens, not the 
immediate profits of pockets. Public bodies are 
concerned with providing citizens with good schools 
and roads and bridges, rather than with schools, 
roads and bridges that, in the business-man's use of 
the word, " pay." Every public department should, 
admittedly, be run on business-like lines but not 
for business ends. Hence it is difficult to compare 
the efficiency of a public department with that of a 
business firm. 

No outsider gets to know, for instance, of the 
blunders of a business firm until it is threatened 
with bankruptcy. Yet an honest business-man will 
confess that he is as liable to make mistakes as any 
Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary who ever lived. 
The business-man does not live in the glare of news- 
paper criticism. So long as dividends remain high, 
he is immune from criticism. No statesman not 
even the greatest in history ever enjoyed such 
immunity. His very successes are frequently assailed 
by his enemies as failures. He is pronounced a fool 
even before he has been given a chance. The 



business-man, being permitted to make his ordinary 
day-to-day blunders in secret, preserves his reputa- 
tion as an infallible and practical man. I remember 
hearing the head of a great firm saying, at a time 
when Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister, that if 
the things that happened in his office were sub- 
jected to the same censorious scrutiny as the things 
that happen in Cabinets and Government depart- 
ments, the general public would conclude that his 
business was doomed to failure. He still " carries 
on," however. 

In spite of all that can be said in criticism of 
the business-man, his presence in politics should be 
no less welcome than that of the landlord, the 
lawyer, the economist, and the working-man. One 
protests only against his canonization as a national 
redeemer. Political ideals and business ideals are 
not necessarily identical, but for business methods 
there is always need. At the same time, it is the 
statesmen rather than the business-men who have 
made such a success (from one point of view) of 
national organization in Germany. The business- 
man has helped, but the inspiring ideas were the 
ideas of politicians. After all, the business of 
government is the most difficult business in the 
world, and there is no reason to think that an 
ordinary business-man would succeed in it any 
more than he would succeed in the business of 
painting a picture or writing a play. 

129 K 


At regular intervals during a great war the 
question arises as to how much the general public 
should be told about its horrors. The question has 
been raised with reference to the cinematograph 
pictures of the Battle of the Somme. One may put 
aside at the outset the objection that the cinemato- 
graph cheapens great events, which it records, as it 
were, by accident and as a privileged spy. That is 
not the point at issue. The argument against 
exhibiting to the public the horrors of war is usually 
based on the feeling that to dwell upon such things 
is to lacerate unnecessarily the hearts of those whose 
near relations either are facing death or have already 
fallen in the field. And there is a selfish as well as 
a generous instinct which urges people to keep silent 
about the horrors of war. Those who stay at home, 
or many of them, like to wrap themselves up in a 
delusion that in making war they are sending forth 
men upon a romance. In reading about the war, 
they hug every comic anecdote and Academy pret- 
tiness to their breasts as though these things restored 
their confidence in the world. War, they seem to be 
telling themselves, would not be so bad if it were not 
for German atrocities. I imagine, however, the pro- 
portion of people who take this comfortable view is 
smaller, immensely smaller, than it has ever been 
before. It is difficult to believe that by this time 
there is a single person in the civilized world who 
has not a friend or two fighting. Every day 
hundreds of new houses go into mourning. One can 
scarcely find a street in which some house has not 
lost its heir through a bursting shell or a sniper's 



bullet. One looks at the windows of the poor, and 
one sees an increasing number of the bemedalled 
cards which a few months ago were stuck there with 
such pride now fitted with a mourning bow. Thus, 
in order to escape the realities of war, one would 
need to be a hermit, or at least to live in the cell of 
one's own selfishness. 

Why, then, it may be asked, add the realization of 
horrors to the already overwhelming realization of 
personal loss ? And obviously one would not go to 
a woman who had lost her son and describe to her 
in detail his wounds, and the agonies in which he 
died. One would like her to remain, almost at any 
cost, under the impression that he was one of the 
multitude who met their deaths swiftly and merci- 
fully in the insane ecstasy of a charge. Supposing 
he died horribly, one would not for the world add 
his pain to hers. But this does not apply to the 
general realization of horrors. The civilian world has 
no right to benefit by the sufferings of others which 
it is not willing to face in their innumerable tragedy. 
No man has the right, by the proxy of a roomful of 
statesmen, to send men to death and suffering for 
his ideals without knowing exactly what he is doing. 
If men could persuade themselves that war was 
simply a " great game," they would be at war most 
of the time they could afford from the business of 
earning a living. It is a growing realization of the 
appallingness of war that has made civilized nations 
more and more come to regard it not as the first 
resort, but as the last resort in a dispute between 
rational beings. It was a revival of the war-cult of 
earlier ages that precipitated Germany into the pre- 
sent war. The German people as a whole, I imagine, 
could have been led still more enthusiastically into 
peace than into war. But their military leaders 
longed to use their beautiful regiments and their 
beautiful guns. They felt the passion of the game 


the desire to live the " lordliest life " at its fullest 
and most thrilling. The fact that a number of 
powerful men regarded war as something other than 
a last resort has turned Europe into one vast house 
of lunacy and slaughter. And yet the realistic as 
opposed to the romantic view of war was common 
enough in recent years in Germany itself. One 
remembers a book called The Slaughterhouse, which 
was published in Germany a few years ago with the 
object of portraying war as a disgusting and frenzied 
butchery. Books of this kind, indeed, were fairly 
common in all countries. There was a Swede who 
wrote a remarkable volume of stories called Pride 
of War, in which he drew a horrid picture of events 
in the Italian War in Tripoli. One of his stories 
pictured a bayonet-charge in all its blood-lust and 
drunken fury and hideous messiness, and then 
suddenly showed us the soldiers who had taken part 
in it studying with appreciative acceptance the 
drawings in the illustrated papers which represented 
the charge as a romantic rush of soldiers in spotless 
uniforms to the glories of victory. One wonders 
how many soldiers could endure a Christmas- 
supplement treatment of the present war. So great 
is the human need for illusion that, no doubt, there 
are scores of thousands. But there are hundreds 
of thousands whom such make-believe caricatures 
would inflame with indignation. They know, and 
they will not forget. At the same time, many of the 
most popular books about the war are so reticent as 
regards horrors that the civilian is in danger of 
feeling almost too comfortable. One does not grudge 
him his comfort frequently one shares it but 
obviously the more he can be horrified into giving 
his attention to the necessity of discovering some 
saner means than war for arranging international 
disputes, the better. The world must not be allowed 
to drift into the slaughterhouse again, if any way of 



preventing it can be discovered. Whether war will 
ever absolutely cease on this planet, no one knows. 
But at least we can reduce its possibilities to a mini- 
mum by merely willing to do so, and by directing 
the intelligence of the world to that end. Some 
authors call this direction of will and intelligence the 
" cultivation of the international mind." There 
could be no better education of this mind than the 
realization of what war is actually like how it far 
surpasses in horror a state of the world in which a 
Titanic or a Lusitania would go down in disaster on 
every day in the year. Some people may be alarmed 
lest a too acute realization of horrors may weaken 
the will to go on with a necessary war. But as a 
matter of fact this is not the effect of the realization 
of horrors on those who enter upon war as the only 
method available to them of defending a just cause. 
There will always be something in the human race 
which will be willing to face death and the intensest 
horrors if there is no other road to the victory of 
their ideal. The realization of horrors by the way 
will not enfeeble the spirit of men advancing towards 
great ends. Those ends must be reached so they 
will hold whatever the suffering. But is there no 
other road ? 

Hitherto, those who have dwelt upon the horrors 
of war have often been ready to adopt a policy of 
peace at any price. There is something ignoble in 
a nature which avoids war merely in order to escape 
the horrors of war. St. George might as honourably 
have run away from the dragon through hatred of 
its hideousness. What is needed is not a world in 
which men will run away from dragons, but a world 
in which men will see that dragons are not the 
indispensable arbiters in every human dispute. We 
need the will to exterminate the dragon, not to bolt 
from him. Sydney Smith, who was one of the most 
outspoken haters of war in nineteenth-century 



England, holds our sympathy so long as he protests 
against the appeal to this bloody judge in human 
affairs, when a more rational judge might be had ; 
but he is in conflict with much that is fine in human 
nature when he denounces the chivalrous side of war 
with the criminal. There was nothing to appeal to 
the imagination of ardent men when in 1823 he 
wrote tremblingly of the prospect that England 
would enter upon a war for the sake of the liberties 
of Spain. " I am afraid," he wrote : 

" I am afraid we shall go to war; I am sorry for 
it. I see every day in the world a thousand acts 
of oppression which I should like to resent, but I 
cannot afford to play the Quixote. Why are the 
English to be the sole vindicators of the human 
race ? " 

And he wrote again on the same subject : 

" For God's sake, do not drag me into another 
war ! I am worn down, and worn out, with 
crusading and defending Europe, and protecting 
mankind; I must think a little of myself. I am 
sorry for the Spaniards I am sorry for the Greeks 
I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the 
Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most 
detestable tyranny ; Bagdad is oppressed I do 
not like the present state of the Delta Thibet is 
not comfortable. Am I to fight for all these people ? 
The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. Am I 
to be champion of the Decalogue, and to be eter- 
nally raising fleets and armies to make all men 
good and happy ? We have just done saving 
Europe, and I am afraid the consequence will be, 
that we shall cut each other's throats." 

All this seems to be the most unaspiring of common 



sense to the Quixote that survives in every man's 
bosom. It is simply a bourgeois cry for comfortable 
things. One knows how humane a man Sydney 
Smith in fact was, but he has not expressed his anti- 
militarism here as a fine humane ideal. He missed 
all the heroic side of war when he accused mankind 
of " hailing official murderers, in scarlet, gold and 
cocks' feathers, as the greatest and most glorious 
of human creatures." He who cannot praise the 
heroism of war has no right to denounce the horrors 
of war. Mr. Masefield's picture of the horrors of 
war in his new book, Gallipoli, is all the more con- 
vincing because of the imaginative enthusiasm with 
which he reveals the hero in man triumphing amid 
the horrors. His soldier is a heroic challenger of all 
the fiends as well as a tragic figure who sees the 
comrades at his side 

"blown to pieces . . . or dismembered, or drowned, 
or driven mad, or stalked, or sniped by some unseen 
stalker, or bombed in the dark sap with a handful 
of dynamite in a beef-tin, till their blood is caked 
upon his clothes and thick upon his face," 

and who himself in a few minutes more may be 

"blasted dead, or lying bleeding in the scrub, with 
perhaps his face gone and a leg and an arm broken, 
unable to move but still alive, unable to drive away 
the flies or screen the ever-dropping rain, in a place 
where none will find him, or be able to help him ; 
in a place where he will die and rot and shrivel, 
till nothing is left of him but a few rags and a few 
remnants and a little identification disc flapping on 
his bones in the wind." 

Soldiers have to learn to see a light side to this 
universal chaos of calamities. But civilians ought 



not to be permitted to do so. There is a scene in a 
revue now running in a London music-hall in which 
huge bombs fall comically in German trenches. It 
is a legitimate amusement for soldiers, but hardly 
one feels for those who stay at home. Those who 
stay at home are constantly in danger of beginning 
to take rhings for granted; and it is too easy to allow 
oneself to take other people's sufferings for granted. 
Catholics feel this to such a degree that they make 
statues and pictures of Christ, which reveal the 
wounds of the crucifixion, and show the bleeding 
heart in his breast. These statues offend the non- 
Catholic as morbid and repulsive things, but one 
sees clearly enough the object of religious men and 
women in dwelling upon such horrors. It is simply 
to compel themselves to realize the sufferings which 
were endured, according to their belief, as a necessary 
means to their salvation. And we, too, must not 
allow ourselves to forget those nearer sufferings. If 
we forget them, then the war becomes but a Bacchic 
interlude in a complacent and drifting world. It 
will be only a meaningless dingdong of massacre 
instead of the introduction, as it may be made, to a 
new Europe. And our grandchildren will say that 
it had no more moral significance than old Kaspar 
could discover in the Battle of Blenheim. Popular 
historians, no doubt, will hurrah a great deal and 
heap up rhetorical mountains of words about the 
" deeds that saved the Empire," but the war will 
have failed to contribute anything to the service of 



Tom Kettle has been killed in Flanders Tom 
Kettle, the most brilliant Irishman of his generation, 
the generation after Mr. Yeats and A. E. He was 
brilliant in conversation, brilliant in public speech, 
brilliant in the written phrase. To be in his com- 
pany was to be in the company of the most melan- 
choly man of his years in Ireland, and the wittiest. 
He was by nature of the school of the pessimists. 
He found a kind of intellectual mirror in Anatole 
France. But he could not achieve consolation, like 
Anatole France, through wit and Rabelaisianism. 
He was too tragical-hearted for that. One thought 
of him as a young philosopher in a sad cloak. I 
once saw a pen-and-ink drawing of James Clarence 
Mangan that had strange resemblances to Kettle. 
He seemed in the same way to go about visibly 
accompanied by doom. His conversation at times 
was like a comment on doom, scornful, cheerful, 
challenging, paradoxical emotion turned back from 
the abyss with an epigram. 

Those who know nothing of Ireland will regard it 
as a paradox that one of the first public acts of 
Kettle's life was to organize a body of students to 
capture the Royal University organ in Dublin, and 
so prevent " God Save the King " from being played 
at the conferring of degrees, while his last act has 
been to die for the liberties of Europe in the uniform 
of the British Army. But to Kettle himself there 
was no contradiction in this. " God Save the King " 
has been sung in Ireland fora century, not as a song 
of freedom, but as a hymn of hate against liberty. 



Kettle saw in the German outrage on Belgium 
simply a new geographication of the curse of Crom- 
well. I remember the mood in which he came back 
from Belgium, where the outbreak of war had found 
him engaged in buying rifles for the National Volun- 
teers. He was horrified by the spectacle of a bully 
let loose on a little nation. He was horrified, too, 
by the philosophic lie at the back of all this greed 
of territory and power. He was horrified at seeing 
the Europe he loved going down into brawling and 
bloody ruin. Not least and no one can understand 
contemporary Ireland who does not realize this 
was he horrified by the thought that, if Germany 
won, Belgium would become what he had mourned 
in Ireland, a nation in chains. 

That was the mood in which he offered his 
services to the War Office. He always dreamed of 
an Ireland whose life would be identified with the 
life of Europe. He believed that in fighting for the 
soul of Europe he was fighting for the soul of Ireland. 
He hated any nationalism which had not interna- 
tionalism for its complement. In his most character- 
istic book, " The Day's Burden " the very title of 
the book seems like a piece of autobiography he 
expressed his longing for an Irish Goethe who would 
teach Ireland " that while a strong people has its 
own self for centre, it has the universe for circum- 
ference." He believed in Nationalism because " in 
gaining her own soul, Ireland will gain the whole 
world." The last time I saw him it was in Dublin 
ast July he was philosophizing after his manner on 
the " coloured rags " for which men lay the world 
waste. He was a Nationalist, not through love of a 
flag, but through love of freedom. He would have 
pulled down all barriers against human sympathies. 
He despised Jingoism and narrowness on all sides. 
One remembers his contemptuous summary of Mr. 
Kipling's Ulster poem as : 



" A bucketful of Boyne 
To put the sunrise out." 

His attitude with regard to the Dublin insur- 
rection in Easter Week was typical of the conflict 
of his sympathies, as of the sympathies of many Irish 
soldiers during the last few months. He was aghast 
at the insurrection : he fought in the streets of 
Dublin to suppress it. But he was equally aghast 
at the manner of its suppression and the execution 
of the leaders of the revolt. Events seemed to have 
overwhelmed him with despair. The murder of 
Sheehy-Skeffington, whose brother-in-law he was, 
had especially sunk into his soul as a monstrous 
and incredible cruelty. He had often differed from 
Skeffington, who always marched straight for one 
goal, while he himself, being less of a man of action 
by temperament, meditated upon goals rather than 
marched to them ; but he loved him for the uncom- 
promising and radically gentle idealist he was. He 
seemed, as he talked, like the spirit of pity incarnate 
some shadow born out of the imagination of 
Turgenev or Thomas Hardy. He spoke at one 
moment with indignation and mockery of those 
whom he had fought as enemies, and the next with a 
curious envious reverence of men who had died with 
so unflinching a heroism. He was bitter that they 
had murdered his dream of an Ireland peopled, not 
only by good Irishmen, but by good Europeans ; 
but of one of the insurgent leaders, whom we both 
knew and loved, he said : " I would gladly have given 
my life for him." 

Some day, perhaps, a great artist will arise who 
will be able to portray the passions and sufferings 
of Ireland in the year 1916. If he does he will find 
in Kettle a representative figure an exaggeratedly 
representative figure of much of the suffering 
of the time. And how attractive and wayward 



and crusading a figure, too ! Wit, metaphysi- 
cian, economist, politician, professor, Bohemian, he 
was, indeed, as he called Anatole France, a soldier 
of " the lost cause of intellect." It was to the 
standard of the intellect in a gloomy world that he 
always gaily rallied. His darting phrases made 
straight for the heart of unintelligence sometimes, 
also, no doubt, for the heart of intelligence. The 
truth is, he never could resist a good phrase. When 
he sat in Parliament, he summed up the frailty of 
Mr. Balfour in yielding to the Tariff Reformers in 
the sentence : " They have nailed their leader to 
the mast." And his conversation was a procession 
of such things uttered from a large melancholy 
mouth with no more than the flutter of a smile. 
And now he is dead, a soldier in the lost cause of 
the intellect in national and international affairs. 
Perhaps, as a result of his death, his ideas will begin 
to live the root ideas, I mean, apart from their 
accidental application his ideas, especially, of a 
new Ireland in a new Europe, of peace and humanity 
and honour. 

But meanwhile consider the tragedy of it all. 
Sheehy-Skeffington is shot by British soldiers at 
the command of a mad officer in April : Tom Kettle 
dies at the hands of German soldiers five months 
later. There you have more than a personal tragedy. 
You have a last symbolical act in the age-long tragedy 
of Ireland. 



Sheehy-Skeffington's death at the hands of soldiers 
in the Dublin rising stirs the imagination all the 
more profoundly because not merely was he innocent 
of any crime, but he seemed to be almost the only 
person left in Ireland who was an irreconcilable 
believer in peace. Ireland has in the last year or 
two been occupied by five bodies of armed men 
the British Army, the National Volunteers, the Irish 
Volunteers, the Ulster Volunteers, and the Irish 
Citizen Army. Skeffington stood aloof from them 
all. He believed furiously in the ideals of some of 
them, and disbelieved furiously in the ideals of others. 
But he objected equally to the methods of all. 
Some months before his death he moved at a meet- 
ing of extreme Nationalists a resolution calling for 
an immediate end to the European war. But the 
meeting threw out his resolution and passed another 
instead, to the effect that the war must go on till 
the liberty of Ireland was assured. Skeffington was 
constantly in a minority of one even in the house of 
his friends. 

I first heard of Sheehy-Skeffington, I think, when 
he was running a weekly called The National Democrat. 
If I remember right, it was edited by him and 
Fred Ryan (who afterwards went to Cairo to 
work on an Egyptian Nationalist paper, and was 
editing Egypt in London when he died in 1913). 
Skeffington and Ryan were exceptional figures in 
the ranks of Irish Nationalism. They were Socialists, 
Suffragists, anti-clericals, and many other things that 
the average Nationalist is not. They had something 
of the Frenchman's eager scepticism and desire to see 



things in the light of reason. Fred Ryan's heroes 
lay among the French philosophers of the eighteenth 
century. Skeffington's inspiring hero was nearer 
home. It was Michael Davitt. I do not mean that 
he was a blind follower of Davitt's. Davitt had 
been a Fenian, and Skeffington was not that. But 
Davitt may be said to have been the first democrat 
in Parnellite Ireland. He believed in the cause of the 
working classes, the nationalization of the land, and 
in lay control of the schools. Skeffington's politics 
lay beyond this, but this was their foundation. His 
enthusiasm resulted in his writing a polemical life 
of Davitt, in which he accepted and emphasized 
Davitt's hostile characterization of Parnell. 

Skeffington did not in those days belong to the 
extreme section of the Nationalists. He was a 
member of the United Irish League a most unwel- 
come member at times, when he filled the part of 
the Socratic gadfly. Orthodox members of all 
leagues have a way of passing resolutions and then 
going asleep for the rest of the year. Skeffington's 
resolutions all had the object of waking people up. 
He did not believe in tact or compromise. He 
believed in fighting for principles. And he was 
always doing it. Politicians, whose business is with 
programmes rather than with principles, were 
impatient of so unrestrained an interloper. As a 
result, Skeffington was constantly at odds with the 
majority. He became a sort of legend as an inter- 
rupter of the somnolent. One thought of his red 
beard as a storm-signal, and of his long knicker- 
bockers as an assertion of principle at all times and 
in all places. Every orthodoxy in Dublin regarded 
him as an eccentric. He was the leader of an even 
smaller party than Mr. Tim Healy. No jeers or 
sneers, however, could silence him. He seemed to 
thrive on them. He was as irrepressible as the pre- 
war Gustave HervS or the later Liebknecht. He 



was Daniel in the lion's den, enjoying the humours 
of his position. Ultimately, even his enemies had 
to admit that, eccentric though he might seem, he 
was of courage unexcelled. He never refused a 

What astonished many people was the splendid 
ease with which he laid aside the bitterness of con- 
troversy in his private relations. Reading his articles 
one would sometimes think of him as a controver- 
sialist, violent, rasping, unsympathetic. When one 
met him, however, one discovered him to be above 
all things cheerful, tolerant and sociable. He would 
joke about his misadventures and the derisive abuse 
which was occasionally heaped upon him. He could 
converse without malice with his worst enemy. He 
enjoyed scoring points in his rather high voice and 
his Ulsterish accent; but he was incessantly amiable 
as he did so. His voice might be sharp, but his 
quick eyes were gay and unexpectedly gentle. He 
enjoyed argument, one felt, like a game of reason. 
He enjoyed hearing the other side as well as fighting 
for his own. His ability to appreciate other people's 
points-of-view was shown in a series of dialogues 
which he wrote about ten years ago and published 
week by week in Mr. W. P. Ryan's paper, The Irish 
Peasant. He called his series " Dialogues of the 
Day," and discussed in them topics of the hour from 
the points-of-view of United Irish Leaguers, Sinn 
Feiners, Ulstermen, priests, business men and other 
types of Irishmen. They were both amusing and 
impartial. Skeffington, indeed, was a very clever as 
well as a very honest journalist. 

Of late years he was associated chiefly with the 
labour movement, the suffrage movement and the 
anti-war movement. He worked hard for justice to 
the poor during the great Larkin strikes which pre- 
ceded the war. He fought equally hard in the mili- 
tant Suffragist movement, pacifist though he was, 



but it was obviously the self-sacrifice rather than the 
violence of the movement which attracted him. 

One might have expected that so militant a per- 
sonality would throw himself with enthusiasm into 
the National Volunteer movement, which grew up 
in Ireland as a counterblast to Sir Edward Carson. 
And there is no doubt that Skeffington was strongly 
attracted to the Volunteers. He loved them for their 
honesty, their self-sacrifice, their idealism. But his 
belief that the problems of the world should be 
settled, not by bloodshed, but by reason, prevented 
him from going all the way with them, and in The 
Irish Citizen he published a protest against the 
theory of raising an Irish Nationalist army, in the 
form of an " open letter " to his friend Thomas 
MacDonagh, afterwards executed for his share in the 
rising. In the course of this open letter, Skeffington 
wrote : 

"You will say Ireland is too small, too poor, 
ever to be a militarist nation in the European 
sense. True, Ireland's militarism can never be on 
so grand a scale as that of Germany or England ; 
but it may be equally fatal to the best interests of 
Ireland. European militarism has drenched 
Europe in blood; Irish militarism may only 
crimson the fields of Ireland. For us that would 
be disaster enough." 

He then went on to suggest, as an alternative to 
the preparation of an armed body of Nationalists, 

an organization of people prepared to dare all 
things for their object, prepared to suffer and to 
die rather than abandon one jot of their principles, 
but an organization that will not lay it down as 
its fundamental principle. ' We will prepare to 
kill our fellow men.' " 



And now the poet of the sword and the journalist 
of peace, both of them men of genial light-hearted- 
ness, lie in an equal grave with bullet-wounds in 
their breasts. 

Skeffington's pacifism was double-edged. It was 
the pacifism of the Nationalist and the pacifism of the 
Internationalist. If he had been a German or an 
Englishman he would, no doubt, have been a con- 
scientious objector. Being an Irishman, who took 
the view that this is not Ireland's war, he was also 
an anti-recruiting propagandist. He believed that 
Ireland as a nation has the same right to remain 
neutral in this war as Denmark has ; and he argued 
his case on comparable grounds to those on which 
M. Henri Bourassa, the Canadian Nationalist, 
claimed that Canada ought to remain neutral. In 
the first half of 1915 he got into trouble on account 
of his anti-recruiting speeches, and was sent to prison. 
He refused to take food, however, and as soon as 
he was exhausted by a hunger-strike the authorities 
let him go. Unfortunately the hunger-strike affected 
his heart, and he was ill for some time after his 
release. He afterwards went to America, where he 
explained that he and those who agreed with him 
were not pro-German but merely desired that Ireland 
should remain neutral in the war. The pro- 
Germans in America were indignant at his sugges- 
tion that pro-Germanism was a rarity in Ireland. 

Skeffington, however, was intellectually a pacifist 
as well as a neutralist. His interests were social- 
democratic and internationalist. He would certainly 
have stood by the side of Liebknecht if he had been 
a German. He hated Imperialist wars as denials 
of the brotherhood of man. 

In writing of Sheehy-Skefnngton I am naturally 
concerned with expounding his ideas (in so far as I 
understand them) and not my own. I differed from 
him on the subject of the present war as on many 

145 L 


other subjects. But however much one differed 
from him, one could still watch his fighting and 
heretical progress with immense admiration for his 
devotion and courage. He was a " bonnie fighter." 
He was besides, I think, the honestest man in Ireland. 
How generous was the spirit in which, in those days 
of insurrection, the police having been withdrawn 
from the streets of Dublin, he set out for the danger- 
zone to remind the poor and the starved of their 
duties of citizenship ! That lonely mission to put 
down looting in the streets was a worthy last act in 
a life devoted to noble causes. " You will find out 
your mistake afterwards," he said to the soldiers 
who were about to shoot him ; and having said so 
he died smiling. Ireland, and the world, could ill 
afford to lose so good a citizen so daring, so 
energetic, so challenging, so individual. Probably 
he would never have been the leader of a large party 
in Irish politics however long he had lived. But as 
a guerilla critic in advance of his age, he would have 
been of infinite service in a self-governing Ireland. 
He was less a dreamer than a propagandist. But 
every humanitarian cause in Ireland, while gaining 
an example, has lost a heroic champion through his 



The idea of Nationalism is generally misunder- 
stood. The Imperialists do not try to understand 
it ; they call it sedition and hand it over to the 
police. Unfortunately, a great number of good 
democrats Socialists and humanitarians especially 
are also hostile to the national idea. They regard 
it as an aggressive denial of the brotherhood of man, 
a shrill and immoral exaggeration of individualism. 
Perhaps this is because Nationalism means so many 
different things in different countries. In Russia, 
for instance, Nationalism has come (or had, in the 
Tsar's time) to mean Chauvinism the very reverse 
of the real meaning of the word. Nationalists of 
the Russian sort are essentially Imperialists or 
Supernationalists perverters of the decent things 
in patriotism. You may always take it that a 
Nationalist who shows signs of Chauvinism is an 
Imperialist in the making. By his Chauvinism he 
has already betrayed the central principle of 
Nationalism, which is to respect the personality of 
every other nation as one wishes the personality of 
one's own nation to be respected. Therefore,, when 
one speaks of Nationalism as a political theory and 
not as a catchword of party politics, one j.s thinking 
of Nationalism like Mazzini's the. Nationalism 
which urges countries like Finland, 'Persia, India,, 
Poland, Egypt, Georgia, and Ireland to strive, not 
for mastery over other nations, but for an e^ual 
place in an international brotherhood of peoples. 



Nationalism, then, is a theory concerning the 
personality of nations. Nationality, said Mazzini, 
is the individuality of peoples, and Nationalism is 
simply an assertion of the belief that the individuality 
of a people is as holy and real and desirable a thing 
as the individuality of a man or a woman. It holds 
up the ideal of a many-coloured cosmopolitanism of 
free nations as opposed to a colourless and mech- 
anical cosmopolitanism of big Powers and subject 
races. The most cosmopolitan of creeds, it is 
eternally opposed to the pseudo-cosmopolitanism 
which means denationalisation the sort of cosmop- 
olitanism which is referred to in a famous passage in 
" Rudin," where Turgenev, speaking through one of 
his characters, says : " Cosmopolitanism is all 
twaddle, the cosmopolitan is a nonentity worse 
than a nonentity : without nationality is no art, nor 
truth, nor life, nor anything. You cannot even have 
an ideal face without individual expression : only a 
vulgar face can be devoid of it.'' In the eyes of 
Nationalists, Imperialism makes for the vulgariza- 
tion, the spiritual lifelessness, of the world. 
Nationalism, on the other hand, aims at opening up 
a way by which the nations may have life, and have 
it more abundantly. 

It might be possible to admit a good deal of this 
without understanding in all cases how the Nation- 
alist theory is to be put into practice. Some people 
seem to find it difficult to tell a nation when they 
see one. They do not know whether Georgia is a 
nation or only part of Russia, whether Ireland is a 
nation or only a province of what the lawyers call 
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. 
If Ireland is a nation, they say, for example, then 
why not Yorkshire ? Is the individuality of Ireland 
any more marked than the individuality of Yorkshire ? 
These are fair questions. The answer to them is 
that Yorkshire will be a nation on the same day on 



which she feels that she is one, and on which her 
consciousness becomes so separate from the national 
consciousness of England that she will desire to 
express it in a distinct literature, language, social 
and political life, and all the rest of it. Ireland 
simply has a different national consciousness from 
England. Her very dissensions which she herself 
finds so interesting only bore England. Even the 
dullest person can see that she has a distinct person- 
ality of her own to the making of which thousands 
of years have contributed years of social and 
political change, of geographic separateness, of sun 
and wind and rain falling upon green growing 
things thousands of years of the spirit of place 
working among men and women and creating an 
inheritance of personality and sentiment for the 
children of even the latest comers to the land. 

Take the case of India again. Imperialists tell 
us of India, as Metternich used to say of Italy, that 
it is a mere "geographical expression." Thousands 
of authentic Indian voices, on the other hand, rise 
in every corner of the country to call India their 
motherland in other words, to prove in the most 
effectual way possible that India is a unit of 
national consciousness. Indian Nationalism is an 
obvious fact to everybody except the people who 
think they can explain away all the great events 
since the Flood by saying that they are the work 
of paid agitators; and the reality of Indian Nation- 
alism is sufficient proof of the reality of the Indian 
nation. It is, of course, part of an unscrupulous 
Imperialist policy to deny the Indian nation to say 
to the Indians, " You are divided into Hindu and 
Mahometan, into Mahratta and Punjaubee, into all 
sorts of races and religions. It is your want of 
unity which compels England to go in and man- 
age your affairs for you. You would only quarrel 
and kill each other if you were left to yourselves." 



One would set more store by the conclusion of 
the Imperialist if one did not know that with him 
the wish is here father to the thought. " Divide 
that you may govern," is an old settled principle of 
Imperial policy, and subject peoples are kept subject 
only by a constant excitement of all their worst 
passions in a way that recalls the degradation, with- 
out the heroism, of civil war. " But the worst of 
this is," said Archbishop Boulter, Primate of Ireland, 
when oppression was drawing Irishmen together in 
the eighteenth century, "that it tends to unite 
Protestant with Papist, and whenever that happens 
good-bye to the English interest in Ireland for 
ever." In other words, in order to further an 
Imperial policy, Ireland was to be kept, like India, 
"a geographical expression," a scene of civil hatreds, 
and to be prevented by hook or by crook from 
becoming a nation, in which men of opposite creeds 
would agree to differ and would collaborate on com- 
mon days in striving for the welfare of their country. 
Imperialism is surely the meanest and most dis- 
honourable creed that ever deluded thousands of 
decent men and women. 

One may meet the Imperialist half-way, however, 
and admit to some extent the " geographical expres- 
sion " argument. Grant, for instance, that Italy 
was once a " geographical expression." The ques- 
tion that immediately arises is : " Does the Imper- 
ialist hold it would have been better for Italy to 
have remained so and never to have awakened into 
nationhood ? " If he thinks that it is better to be 
a geographical expression than a free nation, why 
does he (supposing, for instance, he is an English- 
man) recoil from the thought of the subjection of 
England to some foreign Power? And, if it is 
better to be a nation than a geographical expression, 
then surely he is bound to aid Poland, India, Persia, 
Egypt, Ireland, and all other trammelled peoples, 



as far as in him lies, in their struggle for a place 
among the free nations. Every nation begins by 
being a geographical expression. Nationalism is 
always a movement, first, to give the geographical 
expression a soul, and, next, to give the soul a 
chance of expressing the best and most vital 
that is in it. The only condition upon which we 
can have what Mazzini finely called the " Holy 
Alliance of the Peoples " is that all the peoples 
shall be free and equal, each living according to 
its own conscience and its own idea of civilization. 

In order to live according to its own conscience, 
a nation has often to rid itself of foreign domina- 
tion in its government, or in its finance, or in its 
industries, or in its intellectual life ; for a foreign 
tyranny is usually more deadening to the soul of 
a people than even the worst home tyranny. Thus, 
Nationalism is in one respect a protest against the 
domination of foreigners: which seems to many 
people to be a narrow business. Nationalism, on 
the other hand, is equally a protest against the sub- 
jection of foreigners : it is as wide and humane as 
the hatred of slavery. It stands for universal rights, 
and makes for understanding, not misunderstanding, 
between nation and nation, for the nations can only 
speak to each other with understanding when each 
is free and respects the freedom of its neighbour. 
Thus, Nationalism is the necessary complement of 
Internationalism. Either without the other becomes 
perverted and inhuman, and is a denial of great 
spiritual principles. The true Nationalist is he who 
aims at universal peace and brotherhood through 
universal liberty. He therefore believes that the 
dominant peoples stand to gain no less than the 
subject peoples from the spread of the national idea. 
He holds that if, for instance, the English nation 
were substituted for the British Empire, there would 
be fewer possibilities of wars, and that the English 


people would make for themselves a fuller, freer, 
happier and more imaginative civilization. That, 
however, is a point upon which I have no time just 
now to dwell. Mr. Chesterton is one of the few 
writers who have emphasized this very necessary 
side of the Nationalist theory. Perhaps he will one 
day give us a book on the necessity of Nationalism 
as a political principle, no less for the nations that 
are at present swollen into empires than for the 
nations that have dwindled into geographical expres- 



One effect of the Russian Revolution has been 
to revive the faith of vast multitudes of people in the 
spirit of man. Mr. Robert Bridges some time ago 
compiled an anthology in honour of the spirit of 
man and its soarings. But the Russian Revolution 
has touched the imagination of thousands on whom 
Mr. Bridges' selections from the world's literature 
have no effect beyond that of airy eloquence. In 
the Russian Revolution they see the achievement of 
the almost impossible. They had grown as sceptical 
in regard to the success of revolutions especially in 
Russia as the Pope's Legate in A Soul's Tragedy 
with his mocking comment : " I have known four- 
and-twenty leaders of revolts." And it was not only 
in regard to revolutions that many people had 
recently been growing sceptical. The first idealism 
in which the war had been begun had lost most of 
its brightness like a three-year-old penny, and a 
prosaic and doubting dullness had taken its place in 
the minds of thousands who in 1914 were the most 
magnificent spendthrifts of words like " freedom," 
"humanity," and "national honour." Men who at 
that time desired to rebuild the world had relapsed 
into the dingdong of commonplace existence, and 
would have been well enough content to defeat 
the Germans and leave the rebuilding of the world 
to those who (in, say, a thousand years' time) 
may have more leisure on their hands. It was a 
natural reaction. The secret of perpetual idealism 
has not been discovered any more than the secret 
of perpetual motion. It is never likely to be dis- 
covered while newspapers outshriek each other in 



a manner that debases an atmosphere richer than 
Homer in disinterested heroism to the level of a 
squabble of drunken costers. The perversion of the 
issues of the war by the sensational Press has made 
ideals seem nothing but platitudes spoken with the 
tongue in the cheek and an air as of " I don't think ! " 
But it is not only the Press that is to blame for 
so great a part of the public's having fallen back into 
the habit of jog-trot and commonplace aims. The 
limitations of human nature itself are the chief 
culprits. Human nature in the Allied countries 
began the war prepared for a brief and glorious 
flight. It found itself expected to remain at exalted 
levels over Christmas, then over a second Christmas, 
then over a third Christmas. It realized that it was 
impossible to stay so far above the ground for so 
long. It sank with exhausted wings, and the war 
ultimately became a custom rather than an inspira- 
tion. Apart from this, a feeling of human helpless- 
ness was common. Pessimism had in many people 
restored to life the theory that human beings were 
being used by a blind fate in a futile quarrel that 
would leave everything almost exactly where it had 
been before except for some millions of mourners. 
"The more it changes, the more it is the same," 
they quoted, and sat down to rest in sad arm-chairs 
above the battle. They recalled the fact that Pitt 
had made war on the French Revolution with as 
fine phrases as those with which Mr. Asquith made 
war on Prussia. They forgot that, while Pitt had 
made war on armed opinions that were for the most 
part right, the England of Mr. Asquith's time had 
made war on armed opinions that were devilishly 
wrong. They saw in the present as in the Napo- 
leonic War only the drifting of helpless millions of 
atoms into collision. They recalled Mr. Hardy's 
picture in The Dynasts of monstrous armies advanc- 
ing to the attack like legions of cheesemites. They 


told themselves that another Mr. Hardy a hundred 
years hence would see the present conflict in the 
same terms of infinite littleness. The spirit of man 
seemed to them a decided failure, incapable of self- 
direction, a doomed and homeless wanderer, hurried 
nowhere in particular like dust in the wind. 

Most of us, to tell the truth, look at human nature 
through the different ends of the telescope by turns. 
Now we marvel at its infinite smallness; the next 
day we are amazed by its immensity, as of a god 
come down to earth. There is no doubt that the 
reading of history makes the philosophical exceed- 
ingly sensible of the littleness of man. What 
reputable cause of war, they ask, had Athens and 
Sparta, or Carthage and Rome, or England and 
France ? They reduce the very Crusades to adven- 
tures in pursuit of gain, and from Julius Caesar to 
Louis Quatorze they see the lust of power wasting 
the lives of simple people for greedy ends. This, 
however, is too easy an interpretation of history. 
After all, even if the lust for power marches through 
history as the principal character, the challenge to 
the lust for power also rings out triumphantly with 
splendid iteration. No doubt, as one manifestation 
of the lust for power is defeated, another rises in its 
place. The defender of liberty in one generation 
may be the attacker of liberty in the next. At the 
same time in spite of the ebb and flow in human 
affairs, it is difficult to believe, after reading history, 
that the sway of human progress is perfectly symbol- 
ized by the sway of the sea. One simply cannot 
admit that no real progress has been made from the 
beastliness of primitive man. The true image of the 
spirit of man is not the coming aud going of the 
tide, but a builder. Its great aim is to build some- 
thing permanent a civilization, a church, a poem. 
Its history is to some extent a history of failures. 
But amid a wilderness of failures suddenly we come 


in full view of one of its master achievements. Out 
of a tangle of meaningless centuries of war emerges 
the Roman sense of order. Amid the base ambi- 
tions of a long line of kings, the French ideal of 
manners slowly comes into being, a gift to the world. 
The English passion for personal liberty a passion 
much counterfeited in the nineteenth century and 
much derided in this is mainly the gift of men 
who, if looked at through the belittling end of the 
telescope, appear egotists and brawlers. There is a 
good deal to be said for disparaging most of the 
people one meets in history, as there is apparently 
for nearly every everybody does it a good deal to 
be said for disparaging the people one meets in 
ordinary life. But this is quite consistent with a 
never-ending amazement at the noble inheritance 
bequeathed to us by the creative human spirit. One 
may find good reasons for disbelieving in every 
individual leader in the French Revolution there 
are certainly few whom one regards with affection 
but it is a sort of political infidelity to disbelieve 
in the resurrection of human nature which the spirit 
behind the French Revolution brought about. 

One has no more right to be disappointed in 
history than in humanity. The very young have 
some right to be disappointed in both. But none 
of the rest of us has the right, unless we cling to 
happy illusions about the immediate perfectibility 
of human nature. There is a time in the life of an 
imaginative young man when he accepts "The 
world's great age begins anew " as the only creed 
fit for a spring morning. He believes he is just on 
the eve of the great social revolution which is to 
settle everything. Human nature, he tells himself, 
has only to have the case for Utopia laid before it 
with passion and understanding in order to insist on 
beginning on the foundations of it with the next 
sunrise. It is a view which is impossible, in a sense, 


to men of experience, but none the less there is a 
fundamental truth in it which men of experience 
usually ignore. Here at least we have a recognition 
of the almost immeasurable scope of the human 
spirit. Here is the assertion of the adventurers 
that there is no North Pole too difficult to be dis- 
covered no problem so desperate that it must be 
abandoned as insoluble. The uttermost faith in 
human nature has far more kinship with truth than 
the uttermost distrust in human nature. Yet the old 
men still go on shaking their heads and regarding 
a headshake as the last gesture of wisdom. Expe- 
rience with many people means little more than a 
hardening of the arteries. These people find it 
difficult to believe that a better world will ever exist 
than the England of the day before yesterday, that 
a better poet will ever exist than Shakespeare, that 
a better sculptor will ever exist than Pheidias. They 
regard the spirit of man which built the Pyramids 
and the Parthenon and the Cathedral of Amiens, 
which created the Greek city-state and the Roman 
civilization and the French Revolution as having 
sunk into a middle-age content with moderate aims 
like themselves. The fires of the world, they think, 
are burnt out, and humanity will cease to hurl itself 
wastefully against the brazen walls of the impossible. 
At least, so -they thought till the war broke out and 
disturbed them with a sense of mightier, madder 
efforts than any Shelleyan dreamer had ever sum- 
moned them to make. And now comes the Russian 
Revolution with its astonishing renunciations and 
ideals to remind them that the Shelleys govern the 
world no less than the kings and the countinghouses. 
Faith in human nature awakes again, and even those 
who look back with disappointment on the French 
Revolution are looking forward with hope to the 
Revolution in Russia. They feel like beginning the 
calendar anew and making this the first year of the 



world. It was once said by an aged politician that 
no change does half so much good as those who 
advocate it hope, or half so much harm as those who 
oppose it fear. It is the lesson of experience, but, 
thus stated, it implies a certain despair which would 
weaken man's efforts and enfeeble his dreams. There 
is no need to anticipate disillusion. Events such as 
the Russian Revolution are quite as likely to give 
the lie to our faithlessness as to our faith. Without 
them we are apt to forget that the spirit of man can 
accomplish wonders in the present surpassing even 
the wonders of the past. There are still many 
people in Western Europe who regard so modest a 
proposal as the abolition of poverty as mere rainbow- 
chasing. One great service the Russian Revolution 
is doing us is that it is diminishing the incredulity 
of the average man in regard to the better future of 
the world. Men are bringing out their Utopias from 
their cupboards again, and are dusting them with a 
look of satisfaction. 





Demy 8vo. 75. 6d. net. 

He was an out-and-out rebel ... a rebel who was a poet, 
a visionary who worked not for prosperity, or even for political 
freedom, bnt for an idea. Such rebels are not politicians but 
lovers ; and Pearse was in love with Ireland. . . . The 
literature left by Pearse speaks him one of those rare people 
who live dedicated lives and are so aflame with spiritual pas- 
sion and the glory of the vision that they care nothing what 
happens to their bodies or their names. His literature gives 
him spirit with all its unworldliness, its purity, its singleness 
of direction, its faith and its courage. Times Literary Supplement. 

His work is all in the last analysis a passionate statement of a 
mystical creed of sacrificial patriotism, . . . the plays and poems 
are on fire with a faith which will affect even . . . the most stern 
and unbending of Unionists. Daily News and Leader. 

We read this book in which is gathered the stories, plays and 
poems of the dend leader of the last Irish rebellion, and we 
found in it not a single thought which is ignoble. Probably 
no more selfless spirit ever broke itself against the might 
of the Iron Age than this man's spirit, which was lit up by 
love of children and country, a dreamer with his heart in 
the Golden Age. Undoubtedly Padraic Pearse was a powerful 
and unique personality, and the publication of this volume in 
which is collected his best writing will give him that place in 
Irish literature which he is entitled to by merit, and which 
would be justly his quite apart from the place in Irish History 
he has gained by his astonishing enterprise. The Irish Homestead. 

The publication ... of the literary works of the leaders of the 
Irish Insurrection has helped us more than mighthavebeenexpected 
to understand the motives and hopes which lay behind their action. 

There can be no qnestion, after this book of his writings of the 
sincerity and intensity of his love for Ireland, or of the fact that 
his life was seriously devoted to one end. The plays and poems 
should convince the reader, more than anything hitherto published, 
that the contention is right which argues that an independent Irish 
literature is possible. Westminster Gazettt. 

The best of the plays at their best are exquisitely beautiful ; 
a delicate simplicity of phrase, . . . and a curious and haunting 
athmosphere of suppressed excitement and eager anticipation 
making them little gems of art. Pall Mall Gazette. 

P ADR A 1C PEARSE (continued). 

Here then is a book which a considerable number of human 
beings already regard as a holy book, because a man died for 
what is written in it. ... The Pearse we find in the collected 
works is something more than an earnest schoolmaster. His 
earnestness has now been intensified into passion. His faith 
has become exalted into mystciism. His plays and poems are pro- 
phetic of suffering. These plays and poems are beautiful with a 
faith in the destiny of the poor and the oppressed, and in the 
power of self-sacrifice to redeem the travailing world. 

Robert Lynd in The New Statesman. 

REBELS, and Specimens from an Irish 
Anthology. Gaelic Poems collected and 
translated by PADRAIC PEARSE. Demy 
8vo. 58. net. 

The first part of this Anthology contains poems in Gaelic of the 
Irish Rebels, collected and translated into English by Padraic 
Pearse. The second part is a collection of songs of unknown 
singers of the hamlets and hillsides; of these the Author writes: 
"The wind of poetry bloweth where it listeth, and in Ireland 
in these later years it has often blown into the cottage of the 
peasant. I have availed myself freely of the harvests of other 
gleaners, but always with due acknowledgment. The fact that a 
piece has been often published or translated has not seemed to me 
justification for excluding it. The only question with which I have 
concerned myself is the question of literary excellence. I will 
print here nothing in which I do not find the essential wine of 


account of St. Enda's School by PADRAIC 
PEARSE, edited and completed by DESMOND 
RYAN. Illustrated. 35. 6d. net. 

Padraic Pearse in his last instructions for the publication of his 
writings referring to his notes, "By Way of Comment" in AH 
Macaomh said : " they form a continuous and more or less readable 
narrative of St. Enda's College from its foundation up to May, 1913. 
I should like my friend and pupil, Desmond Ryan, to add an 
additional chapter describing the fortunes of St. Enda's since then, 
and the whole to be published in a book under his editorship." 
The book is not only an account of St. Enda's but gives Pearse's 
educational ideals, and views, and shows the very lofty, spiritual, 
national and intellectual standard he set before his pupils. It 
also throws many interesting sidelights on his character and 


NOLLY, with an Introduction by ROBERT 
LYND. 45. net. Contains Labour in Irish 
History and The Reconquest of Ireland. 

New and cheaper edition in 2 Voh. Wrappers, 
is. net each. 

James Connolly is described by Mr. Robert Lynd as Ireland's 
first Socialist martyr: "a simple historical fact that must be 
admitted even by those who dispute the wisdom of his actions 
and the righteousness of his ideals." When Labour in Irish 
History was published several years ago, Connolly was a man 
unknown outside of labour circles; it was, however, recognized on 
all sides that here was a new and original interpretation of the 
historical Irish struggle for self-government. The book is an 
examination of Irish history in the light of modern Socialist theory, 
and is also a history of the militancy of the Irish poor during the 
last two centuries. The Reconquest of Ireland, whieh was first 
published in 1915 as a pamphlet, describes social conditions still 
prevailing in Ireland " this," says Mr. Lynd, "is the prose 
Inferno of Irish Poverty and ends on a note of hope for the 
overthrow of the capitalist society, which was, in Connolly's 
opinion, so utterly alien to the genius of the Gael." 

It Is only in Labour in Ireland, by James Connolly, that we 
get the complete political testament and find the mental traveller 
in that mood of exasperation about his country, where we under- 
stand how the next stage may be the dropping of the pen and the 
shouldering of the rifle. . . . Labour in Ireland cannot be over- 
looked by any interested in Irish problems. The Times. 

In Labour in Ireland we have from the pen of James Connolly 
a statement of his views, but more than that, we have a useful 
historical account of the development of Irish economic conditions 
From this point of view the book is valuable. Liverpool Courier. 

This book has a double interest. It has great intrinsic merit as 
an essay upon the part which labour and capital hare played in 
the history of Ireland. . . . It is a work of scientific value, for 
it proves its facts by statistics and documents. New Statesman. 

We must refer the reader to the book itself ; it will well repay 
study by those who wish to gain further light on one of our worst 
and most difficult problems. Glasgow Evening News. 


A series of Books dealing with the work of 
notable Irishmen of to-day and the Move- 
ments with which they have been associated. 
2/6 net, each Volume. 



This is the sixth volume in Maunsel's popular Irishmen of 
To-day series. Mr. Diarmid O'Cobhthaigh gives an eloquent 
appreciation of the activities of Dr. Douglas Hyde both as a man of 
letters and propagandist of the Gaelic League. It is the book of an 
affectionate admirer, which contains at the same time an able 
exposition of Irish ideas. Those who wish to obtain a summary of 
the teaching of the Gaelic League will find it here restated in a 
compendious form. 

Sir Horace Plunkett and his Place in 
the Irish Nation. By EDWARD E. 

Mr. Lysaght, who is both a co-operator and an advanced 
Nationalist, seeks in this book to interpret Sir Horace Plunkett 
t those of his countrymen who have hitherto mistrusted or 
misunderstood him. We have no hesitation in saying that hs 
has succeeded in doing this, and at the same time in providing 
the British and Irish public with a real exposition of thoughtful 

" Mr. Lysaght, a practical farmer, and also a poet of con 
siderable merit, writes well. . . . He is more concerned to 
discuss Irish policy in a serious and informed spirit than to 
ventilate his own individual opinions." The Times Literary 

" Mr. Lysaght is an Irishman of parts. He is a poet of country 
life, an active Nationalist of the modern school, an Irish speaker, 
an economist, and a practising co-operative agriculturist. His 
versatility fits him well to write the new volume in Messrs. 

Maunsel's series of Notable Irishmen of To-day " 

Daily News and Leader. 

" . . . . Mr. Lysaght's intimate and delicate appreciation 
oi a new Ireland . . . ." Ntw Statesman. 

on an Irish Polity. By JE. Crown 8vo. 
45. 6d. net. 

" Stands out among the innumerable social books that stream 
from the presses like a gentle giant among a crowd of 
clamouring pigmies." Time*. 

" Breathes a note of confidence, of hope triumphant and 
undismayed, of spiritual adventure and high courage that only 
the ears of youth can catch. XL's message is not to the 
politicians of to-day, but to the future nation-builders of Ireland." 

" This very nobly written book." The Observer. 

" Commands respect as an expression of the aspirations of a 
true friend of Ireland, and an indefatigable worker in the one 
field in which a constructive and reconciling policy has been 
carried to a successful issue in that country." The Spectator. 

" A great book for Ireland, and for the socialist movement." 
Labour Leader. 

" This book . . . will be hailed by future generations as a 
landmark in the arid wastes of speculations on Irish problems." 
Northern Whig. 

on Anglo-Irish relations and the war. 
By WARRE B. WELLS. Cloth as. net ; 
paper, is. net 

There is nothing rarer in literature than a dispassionate study 
of contemporary political feeling. Mr. Wells writes as an English- 
man in Ireland, explaining Irish Nationalism to his countrymen, 
and he does it with sympathy, insight and intelligence. The Irish 

of " Economics for Irishmen " and the 
Sorrows of Ireland." Wrappers, is. net. 

An account of farming experiences and food production in the 
West of Ireland by one who is both a practical farmer and an 
established reader of letters. 


A 000 679 841 7